Every year around this time, I get what's known as the "fall panic". I panic that the kids aren't learning, I'm not reaching them, or they think I'm a witch.
Starting at a new school, and being able to leave the place that will be the setting of my future book titled, The Place Where My Soul Went to Die: My Bitter Memoirs, has been nothing short of amazing. Working at a place that is so positive and professional, along with getting a pat on your back instead of stabbed in the back after working so hard, and coupled with the wonderful people I work with; I truly feel blessed. I didn't realize how miserable, or how toxic my old school was until I came here. My teaching partner is not only a phenomenal teacher, but a good person. She shares ideas and is not in constant competition of who's-the-most-popular-teacher-and-can-get-the -PTA-to-give-them-gifts-on-the-side. The strategist is my best cheerleader, and a riot to be around. The staff truly assumes everyone always has good intentions, rather than assuming the worst in everyone. My new school is refreshing. That being said, it is late in the fall, and my students have just recently mastered walking down the hallway like humans. If you are a teacher, you know the secret. If you are not, I'll let you in on it. Teachers, well, I myself, feel a little bi-polar at the beginning of the year. Sure you are hopeful for what the new year might bring. The smell of fresh waxed floors, and shiny new notebooks, and fresh pencils are enough to raise my serotonin so I don't think I need my bitch-be-gone pills. However. The younger the grade, the HARDER it is at the beginning. You are responsible for 21 other people for a full 8 hours. Please note- each class has different extremes, but it's rare to get a class that doesn't follow this pattern. At the beginning of the year, you can't turn your back once. You can't assume they know how to walk down the hallway, you have to schedule bathroom breaks for yourself, and actually eating lunch is a silly idea that really won't happen until around Christmas. You have to teach the kids EVERYTHING about "doing school". You are an entertainer, an actress, a mom, nurse ("you are FINE!"), a counselor, a judge, and a mentor. You teach them morals, how to treat each other, social skills, manners and hopefully reading, writing and math. It's a lot of pressure. I'm proud to say, my students mostly know when to sharpen their pencils (not when I'm talking), ask to use the the bathroom (not when I'm teaching a new concept), hand in classwork, and homework, and finally how to walk down the hallway like a human. It's the beginning of the year when a teacher really has to be on their game. You may tell them 176 times that they write on their paper, not in Mrs. Fairfield's books, but the 177th time, they might get away with doing it, so they try. This, my friends, is why I can't ever be gone. If I am gone one day, the sub will let them get away with everything. Then I am back to the first day of school; teaching when/where to use the bathroom, hand in papers, walk down the hall, and in the classroom. Because of this, even when I am sick, I go to school. Teaching is exhausting. Teachers know there is no exhaustion like September exhaustion. This year mine went into October and November. It's times like this, when my car is the last one in the lot, when I go home and I think "I know I'm going home a lot more tired than those kids. I wonder if they even learned anything today". These days is when I have to remember there were 10 times it was worse:
1) The time I forgot to wear my shirt to school. I was teaching at an older school and my room was freezing. I was going to wear a cuddle-dud, (basically long a underwear shirt), and a wool sweater. The problem was I didn't put on the sweater. I was on the phone with my friend when I left the house, got to school, walked to my classroom, took off my jacket and said, "Oh Sh!T! I forgot my shirt!"
2) 99% of the 2012-13 school year was way, WAY worse.
3) 79% of the 2011-12 school year was way worse.
4) The time I thought a kindergarten parent was going to reach over the table and punch me in the face when I had to break bad news to him.- Also known as "the reason I can't teach kindergarten is because I don't like breaking parents' hearts".
5) The time I had a newborn, a toddler, and traveled to two schools to teach Kindergarten, and I was so tired that I burst into tears when a parent asked me to use unscented whiteboard markers.
6) The time I used to let a student sleep, just so I can get some peace.
7) The time someone pulled the fire alarm and I was shocked it wasn't one of my students, - Wait, that was a good time.
8) the time I drove to work and saw two students fake hitch-hiking and flipping off the cars on a very busy street.
9) The time I had a man student teacher and he was more work than the third graders.
10) The last day of school each year. The kids leave me after I have spent 9 months declaring them "my kids". They hold a special place in my heart, yet they just leave as if they are all happy for summer break, after I've just spent so much time, energy and worry on all of them. It's like having empty nest every year...
I have many, many good memories. I guess the feeling of accomplishment doesn't come without a lot of hard work. Like a wise man told me once- nothing worth having is easy.