Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm Still Anxious

Tomorrow I begin my eighteenth school year as a teacher. But I’m still anxious. After tomorrow I will have met more than one hundred classes for the first time, and still, I’m anxious. I watched the handful of students roaming the halls today, finding their way around before the first day of school, and I saw a look on their face that I recognized. I’m still anxious about the first day of school.

I’ll meet over one hundred strangers tomorrow and the next day for the first time. And by the end of the week, I’ll need to convince them that I’m trustworthy, that I care, that I deserve their respect and cooperation. I have to make them believe that they’ll be better off for doing what I ask of them.

Tomorrow is the first day of school and I’m anxious.

You expect it from a student. A student starting a new school, but from a teacher with years of first day experiences? Still feeling of anxiety on the first day of class?

My first year of teaching, a computer on every teacher’s desk was the big deal. Tomorrow I’m slightly frustrated because my students can’t use the laptops until the second period of the day. My first year I spent hours setting up Excel to use as a grade book. Today, I spent a few minutes making sure my Powerschool settings are correct because students and teachers can view my gradebook in real time. I’ve spent more hours designing my website than working on a syllabus this year.

Teaching is different every year. Students are different every year. I’m different every year. And every year I’m anxious. Very few things continue to work year after year, and a teacher must constantly review and revise what they do.

I’m a little socially awkward. I’m uncomfortable around people I don’t know. I don’t like large groups. That doesn’t sound like someone who’d make a good teacher. But I am. I’m probably not great, but I must be better than adequate. I teach an elective that students choose to take, and many choose to take it year after year.

But what I do doesn’t come natural. It takes lots of work. Lots of work, and lots of worry.

Sometimes when I watch performers I notice when they perform to perfection it seems effortless. So much so that I think, “I could do that.” But the older I get, the more I realize, the easier they make it look, the more practice and time and energy they’ve put into it. When it looks the easiest, it’s been the hardest.

I’ve worked hard this year, like every year, to make tomorrow seem easy. And after that, the next one-hundred and seventy-nine won’t be so bad. And the anxiety will give way to relief as my students and I settle into 2013-2014.

Happy First Day of School everyone.

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