What a year! No, seriously. WHAT A YEAR!
It feels like just yesterday that I got my first teaching job. It feels like just yesterday that I went to my classroom for the first time. It feels like just yesterday that the kids showed up for the first day of school. In fact, all of the days feel like just yesterday to me. I honestly cannot believe that it’s already over, and that my time at Grand Saline Middle School is over, and that in just a couple of months it will be another first day of school in a new school with new and fantastic opportunities.
I was terrified on the first day of school. I couldn’t sleep the night before and I couldn’t eat that morning. (But, I looked good!) As I walked into room 126 at the high school to meet my first period STAAR English class I had no idea what to expect. My mind was racing at about 150 miles an hour. Where should I begin? What should I start with? Should I give homework on the first day of school?
“Calm down. It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.” I actually said those words out loud while looking in the bathroom mirror. I didn’t give any homework. In fact, I didn’t really teach that first period. I don’t think I taught much the entire first week. With both that class and my middle school classes I did a lot of getting to know you activities. I had them write essays telling me about themselves, their families, their likes, dislikes, and such as that. Homework over the first weekend didn’t go over very well–lesson learned. I don’t think I assigned anymore homework over the weekend.
I gradually became more comfortable in my own skin, if not with my own abilities. In truth, it was my students who made me more comfortable. Thank goodness that kids are more resilient than adults. How many mistakes did I make? Many! But, every time I made one, they forgave it and came back stronger than before. By the end of the year, I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. . .yea! Just in time for the end of the year!
You know if you’ve read my blog long enough that I’m always honest, and this post is no different. In all honesty, there were days when, if I could have, I would have walked to central administration, turned in my keys and my badge, and never come back. But, I didn’t, and I thank God daily that I never did anything more than entertain that thought. Teaching is hard! It’s harder than anything I’ve ever done in my life. It’s also different from anything I’ve ever done. The amount of responsibility that rests on a teacher’s shoulders everyday is right up there with doctors, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants. It’s heavy, and it doesn’t get lighter. I think teachers just figure out how to carry it better.
I miss my students already. It’s weird. Thinking about them, worrying about them, wondering how they’re doing. . .that doesn’t stop just because school is out. Every morning, about the same time, I think about my seventh grader who was first in the room everyday. As he came in the door, he would hold his arms out like a champion fighter entering the ring and say, “I’m here. Class can start!” Everyday, about the same time, I remember my eighth graders coming in two or three minutes late because they were coming from their Algebra class at the high school and having to “shush” them because we were in the middle of saying the pledges or observing the moment of silence. Yes, I still think about them everyday.
I guess that was the biggest surprise to me–how much I came to care about all of my students. It’s not that I expected not to care, I knew I would. But, no one could have prepared me for just how much I cared and still care about them. Every struggle they had all year long felt like a struggle to me. Every victory they experienced felt like a victory to me, and I hope that I’ll always be able to keep up with what they’re doing and how they’re doing.
Now it’s time to move on to the next part of the adventure. This next two months is the time for me to rejuvenate and get prepared for what lies ahead. Believe it or not, I’m actually already thinking about next year’s students. I haven’t met a single one of them yet, but on some level, I care about them. They have their first assignment from me–summer reading–To Kill A Mockingbird. And, I find myself wondering if they have any questions about it; if they get it; if they like it; or, if they’ve even opened it yet. Yes, I’m already concerned about them. I can honestly say I’ve never felt this way before.
What a year! I’ve changed so much since last August. By no means do I consider myself an expert (yet), but I’m sure not that guy who was scared to death to make a move. I’m thankful to finally be doing what I set out to do 25 years ago. I wish I’d come to it sooner, but I know that all of the things I experienced in those 25 years have uniquely prepared me for this endeavor. For that, I’m truly thankful.