Teaching

Back to School

The dance studio, where I spend a lot of my time.

I knew this time would come. On my last day of work on the cusp of summer vacation, I knew I would have this squeezing feeling in my chest. The ease of summer would eventually end, but I had months before I’d have to worry about it. 

Then it was weeks. 

Then days. 

Now, the grind is back. Waking early, following schedules, sitting in meetings, engaging with students, fighting the urge to throw the computer across the room. We started the year with an active shooter drill. Sign of the times. Sign of the stress.

I spent the summer writing every single day. It was a glorious feeling to be able to wake up, go downstairs, open my laptop and start writing about something. About anything that I wanted. I worked freely on podcasts, interviewed long lost students, edited video, crafted accompanying blog posts. I created social media marketing of my work. There were no rules other than the ones I made for myself.  These new genres of creation are still new to me, and I found a groove, and I liked it. I still do, but now my day job has inserted itself back into my consciousness. I now must compartmentalize my time and split my already-fragile sense of focus.

Shifting back into school mode, it is no longer a quiet, solitary, free existence. It’s now filled with bustle, noise, and anxiety-provoking stuff that I must reacquaint myself with. I must ground myself and make space for both the career I have been passionate about for years and this new pursuit to which I feel compelled to give some deference. I will admit, it is getting harder to make that switch.

The truth is, no matter how many years I spend in the classroom, how much experience I gain teaching, I will always have a sense of anxiety towards the first week of school. There are so many new people to meet, so much shifting and adapting to circumstances that are unknown, so many technical systems that have to work just right to be efficient and useful. The unknown has always been somewhat of an Achilles’ heel for me. In my older age, I have learned to adapt and roll with the punches, but the anticipation of all that never feels comfortable. I don’t know that it ever will.

While that feeling of not being “enough” floats around in my brain, I trust that I know what I am doing. I can lean on the many years of experience, my desire to do things “right,” to help as many kids as I can, to make sure I don’t miss anything, say the wrong thing, or have someone slip through the cracks. That last idea is a powerful presence in my mind. Maybe it’s an expectation that I’ve set, or that the community needs me to live up to, or both. The beginning of the school year looms large. As much as I know, there’s so much more that I still have to learn.

This is the teacher’s burden: starting from square one every September. We are the alchemists that blend old and new, learning and knowledge, excitement and neuroses, and doing it all equitably with limited resources, so that the recipients of our magic leave transmuted in ten months time. This is why summer vacation is so highly coveted by educators. It is exhausting work.

One thought on “Back to School

  1. I never could sleep the night before the first day of school. Like you,
    I was anxious and worried that I wouldn’t do enough to challenge my
    students.
       I think most teachers feel that bit of a mixture of excitement and
    doubt.
      Iris

    Liked by 1 person

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