A teacher’s mind before back-to-school is a dangerous place to be. (At least mine is.)
If you stepped inside, you could get whiplash from the hurricane-like whirlwind of emotions going on in there. It’s not just a rollercoaster, it’s more like the space shot at amusement parks that skyrockets up at high speeds, then drops back down just as quickly, leaving you thinking, “What just happened?” or “Why did I do that?!”
As a mommy and a full-time middle school teacher, summer break is a much appreciated vacation from the stress of working with and loving 75 teenagers for 9 months. Their world is so different from the real world, they all come from different home situations, different realities and expectations, and we go on and try to love and understand each and every one of them, as complicated as they may be. Some people try to “leave it work at work” but that is so much easier said than done with teaching. Our minds don’t just shut out our students and the issues the day brings when we leave the school at 3:45pm (yeah right) each day. We carry that with us, all. year. long. And we love it. We love all the rewarding and difficult experiences the year throws at us, because it’s in our DNA.
But summer, summer is something we look forward to from Christmas break on. Who can blame us? We get a taste of it for two weeks, then have to go into standardized testing and end of year chaos before we get to those two and a half months of bliss.
So, when it’s over it’s easy to understand why we might feel a bit conflicted inside.
Our emotions come in a wide range. From anxiety to excitement, nervousness to nauseating, can’t-sleep-at-night thrilled to hitting-the-snooze-5-times exhausted, the range is wide and different for every teacher, but as some point or another in the weeks before school starts, we all feel many, many different things.
For me personally, it goes something like this…
Anxiety – I get a little anxious when I think about preparing and cleaning my classroom, making new bulletin boards, prepping beginning of year lessons, the number of differentiated learners I’ll have this year, making the perfect seating arrangement for, waking up at 5:30 am instead of 8:00 am, (ok sometimes 9:00) first impressions, meeting the students, meeting their parents, what to wear, common assessments, raising scores from last year, reaching struggling readers, making sure they know I love them no matter what, making sure we have mutual respect, sending my son back to daycare full-time, not hanging out with my husband all day, the end spontaneous mid-day adventures and slumber parties at grandma’s, packing my own (non-toddler food) nutritious lunches, and on top of all the basic stuff, I decided to start my Masters this year, so you could say the anxiety is a little high.
Excitement – I am also genuinely excited to start a new year. I can’t wait to meet the new group of students I’ll get to work with, I am ready to get back into a routine, I love the people I work with and am so lucky to have awesome co-teachers and colleagues, and the adult interaction is much appreciated after months of toddler talk. I’m excited to try new things with my lessons from last year, to adapt, modify, and make them better, and I am soooo thrilled to be a student again myself. There are many new and thrilling things that come along with starting a new year, and I am ready for them all!
Worry – I am a worrier. I over-analyze and stress about things that are out of my control so often, but I think that most teachers have this same endearing quality. The start of the year is no different, worries pop up in my mind between the anxiousness and excitement. I worry that for some reason or another I won’t connect with and reach all of my students, and that they won’t all see growth in one way or another through the year. I worry about some of them facing challenges no middle schooler should have to, and that I won’t know the right things to say at the exact “right” moments for them. I worry that I won’t be able to juggle the many aspects of my life appropriately and not spread myself too thin. I worry about worrying too much.
Hope – Entwined in my emotional bouts, I have a lot of hope for what the school year brings. I hope I’ll be able to reach those tough cookies, and create a good relationship with all the students that walk through my door. I hope they will all feel cared for and welcomed, I hope we’ll build a caring classroom community from day one, and everyone will feel important. I hope I have supportive parents that work with me to do what’s best for their child’s education. I hope our legislature will do what’s best for education and stop putting it on the back burner. I hope we’ll reach all essential learnings with mastery, that all students will gain and grow throughout the year, and throughout it all I hope I’ll be able to be a great mother to my son and wife to my husband. I hope I’ll have patience in the moments of stress, and grace at all times. I hope this year will be the best one yet.
These are just a few of the emotions in the enormous range of feelings an educator goes through when mentally preparing to go back to school. I didn’t even mention fear, pride, sadness, joy, or any of the other things you feel while on the space shot of emotion, but we all know they are there.
Overall, it’s a great time of year, and one of the deepest emotions I feel at this point is relief. I’m relieved that I get to go back and do my most favorite thing in the world, with some of the greatest teachers I know. I am relieved I get to share my passion with young minds and touch lives on a daily basis. I am relieved that this is my path, and it all starts over again in just a couple days.