It’s the Friday before school starts. Since arriving this morning, I hung 28 posters; decorated six bulletin boards; sharpened three dozen pencils; set 30 desks in seven rows facing each other; draped my desk in a Parisian toile skirt; affixed two dozen yellow tennis balls to chair legs; and tripped over the names of the 112 students who will walk into my classroom on Monday morning. As I plop down in my teacher’s chair this afternoon to survey my classroom handiwork, it hits me. During all the years I was a student, including those as an adult, it never once occurred to me how much time teachers spend planning for the very first day. I know how much effort I put into being ready as a student for a new school year – carefully purchasing supplies and steadily calming my nerves — but the teachers? I never gave their preparation a single thought.
I picture every one of my students with eager, open faces, ready to learn, but I know that’s not the reality I’ll see on Monday. Some will arrive like sponges, prepared to soak up everything I say. Others will simply be thankful for the hot breakfast school provides and the lunch the cafeteria staff prepares for them. And yes, sadly, others will walk into my classroom, their hearts and heads distracted from learning because their need for acceptance, for attention, for love, eclipses all else. Will I succeed at giving them what they need?
As I continue to sit, I see colleagues scurrying down the hall juggling endless documents, some balancing boxes and piles of books, others trailing long sheets of colorful paper ready to brighten their classrooms. The sounds of staplers and hammers clicking and banging, of desks dragging, of boxes being sliced open — all add to the hum of a new academic year. When I arrived at school five days ago, my soul still heady from summer travels, I couldn’t believe it was time to return. I had so much of my holiday yet to process. Since Monday, we’ve been in pre-service meetings, reconnecting with coworkers, reviewing new policies, collaborating on the latest initiatives. I think about the activity of the past week and imagine the very same rituals taking place in hundreds of thousands of classrooms across the country – each a hive of anticipatory activity. And now that we’re finally in our individual classrooms, my Monday perspective has changed. I’m back in the mindset of a teacher; I’ve been reunited with my tribe and can’t wait to get started.