It happened today. Somewhere between watching this video in the district’s opening colloquium and hearing the new superintendent’s vision for the year, between printing class seating charts and rushing to retrieve my room keys, I felt it. A sense of hope and of purpose. A tinge of nervous excitement for tomorrow, the first day of school.
On my ride home, I thought about the young people I will meet tomorrow and what I will say to them on our first day together. I want to take advice from veteran teachers to be firm on the first day, less concerned with whether my students like me and more with establishing that our collective priority must be the business of teaching and learning.
I want them to know that I love what I teach. I became an English teacher because I love reading novels and plays. I love writing and talking about the ideas in these works, ideas that transcend social, political, and economic boundaries. When we read, I don’t much care if they can recall the minutiae of the text, but rather that they can dig at what the author is trying to say through the text. In thinking about this, they’ll get closer to uncovering something about our common humanity. I hope they’ll do their best to remain curious about the ideas we discuss together.
And I want them to know that I’m there because I care about their learning, about their journey to becoming the people they wish to be. I could have chosen, could still choose another path. Perhaps even an easier path with more tangible rewards. But instead, I choose to be with them, invested every day in their learning, because I do not think there is any more important thing I could be doing with my life. I am, in every sense of the idea, there for them.
Today, the teacher next door, my friend and a wonderful educator, asked, “How are you feeling about starting your second year? It feels different than this time last year, huh?”
I replied, “Yeah, it definitely does. I’m not nearly as nervous, and I definitely feel more prepared, but…” I was set to launch into my little anxieties and fears about what was to come in the following days.
But she cut me off. “Stop right there,” she said. “Hold onto that, that feeling of more confidence and more control. You’re ready for tomorrow.”
I think she could be right.