Learning The Art of Teacherly Love

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 22 2012

‘Twas the Night Before.. The First Day of School!

‘Twas the night before The First Day of School, and all through the house, Miss S was sure stirring… Too nervous to rhyme.  

Her lunch was all packed, her bags all prepared, in hopes that the children… would not be there.  

She knew it was not the right thing to think, but really, she was concerned that all her lessons would just… sink.  

No matter how much she tried to work, the lists kept getting longer; no dent was made, nothing getting crossed out; the lists were so long, it was starting to hurt.  

Her worries could not be silenced, no doubt, unless she was able to just get out.  

So that’s just what she did; swift as a bunny, and she laughed at everything that was even somewhat funny.  

To ease the nerves, she embraced her whole night, and gave her worries to Him, without a fight.”

No matter how you felt about school, I’m fairly certain every child experiences a mess of emotions the night before the “First Day of School.”  You may have felt like school was ruining that good thing you had going with summer, and you were therefore angry and resentful when you were woken up that next morning.  Maybe you were a little bit scared, a worrier, causing you to stay up all night wondering about all the “what if’s”… “What if I don’t remember anything? What if my teacher doesn’t like me? What if my friends don’t remember me?  What if they got new friends?  What if the work is too hard?  What if I can’t find my class?  What if…”

And then, there’s the last type of child; me.  I was that kid that never slept the night before the First Day of School because I was just too excited.  Notice how I always make “The First Day of School” a proper noun?  That is because I think it’s some kind of holiday!  Like Christmas, you have all new things to play with; new supplies to work with, new folders and binders to organize, new books to read, new shoes, new clothes, new teachers, new classmates, new stuff to learn!  Yes, I was that student.  Hence why I became a teacher; I LOVE SCHOOL.  Why not spend the rest of my life in school?  Then I get an extra holiday every year that the rest of the working world does not get to delight in!

Lucky for me, my “First Day of School” feelings stayed with me all the way through my college and graduate classes.  As I got older, the “worrisome student” became more evident, but this was a natural progression.  I became more concerned with the rigors of my courses, and the anticipation of the heavy workload about to be handed down to me on those dreaded syllabi.  Nonetheless, the pure joy I find in learning and pursuing new knowledge wins over the worries, and I always fall back on my love of learning.

 

Now, I’m on the other side of this equation.  Now, as the teacher, the First Day of School Eve has taken on a whole new mess of emotions.

Weeks of preparation for this day, hours of arranging, organizing, listening, practicing, and I am most definitely exhibiting those worrywart behaviors.
Not to mention that there is a list of things I still have not finished in order to be ready; I need to finish color coding all the student materials, I still have not received any of my curriculum materials, which means I have not even started my unit plans for the first grading period, nor have I written my lesson plans for the first week of instruction (that starts on Monday).  When I do finally get my curriculum supplies, those will need to be organized, and ready to use with my students.  However, there is not writing curriculum for my students, so I am in charge of creating and piloting one.  As a first year teacher?! Of course, I smiled and agreed to take on the challenge when my administrator asked so sweetly.
Along with academic concerns, I’m not sure of simply things like, when to take my students the bathroom, and to lunch, and now that I think about it, I’m not even sure how to take them to the cafeteria, seeing as how it’s in the basement and, being on the 3rd floor, I have not yet ventured down there…

Then there are the other worries.  The ones like, “What if my students don’t like me?…What if their parents don’t like me?…Which is better to have not like you?…What if all the systems I have set up fall apart because I did not plan for the one thing my students poke a hole through, causing my plan to sink?…What if I fall? Like actually trip and fall, on my face?…With all this worrying, is this really what I want to do?…And…What if I’m not cut out for this…?”

If I was able to reverse the roles tonight, I would gladly take a seat at the small desks.  But now, as the teacher, if my mom came to wake me up tomorrow morning, like she did all those years, I would not hop right out of bed like I used to, but instead, I would anxiously ask for just one more week…

Yet, no matter how many worries frantically run through my mind at all hours of the day, and night, I am still smiling.  My heart is in this, and there’s no turning back.  God put me at this school, where He knows I will be pushed to always improve my teaching and my character, where He knows my patience will be tested, but ultimately, I have been placed in the midst of children who need to experience Godly love.  He knows I can do this.  Only He knows how I will help my boys fall in love with learning like I have.  Only He knows how I can touch their hearts.  But as long as He knows, I am safe.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” ~Matthew 6:34

With these thoughts, I decided to fully embrace, with joy, the feelings of “never quite ready.”  Which is why I put my full effort into enjoying the afternoon activities our administrators planned for us.  These activities, proudly dubbed as The First Annual “AMANNzing Race,” could not have come at a more perfect time.  Knowing nothing of what was in store for us,we all grumbled our way down to the auditorium, discussing how we had so many better uses for our precious time; “Don’t they know we have unit plans and lessons to write?!… My classroom’s not ready at all… And the kids come TOMORROW?!”

Sitting in the stuffy auditorium, grumpy, and hungry since I was in a meeting during our designated lunch time, the Mann Culture Team enthusiastically (they always do everything with great enthusiasm; like they have an unending supply of it they just fill up on every few hours, I swear) presented us with “The AMANNzing Race.”  We were quickly assembled into five teams, and given very few instructions to purposely confuse us, and then a list of items to gather and take photos of.  And then we were off!

Our team met for a few seconds, divided up the some 40 item list into things we thought we could find in similar areas, and we hopped in our cars, almost running over our colleagues still gathered outside the school!
First on the list, a picture of an out-of-state license plate: Mine!  After that, it got much more interesting…
From the Philly staples like, a “Water Ice and Soft Pretzel,” and “Cheesesteak and Tastycake,” to “a business card of a cosmetics consultant,” “an ad for a women’s event,” “a receipt for $0.50 worth of gas,” “a photo of a team member pumping gas for a stranger,” “cocktail umbrellas,” and “the number of a phonebooth on City Ave.”  And finally, we scoured the neighborhoods of our students, driving creepily by any children we saw, because we needed pictures of “Mann students excited to come back to school!” and “Mann parents excited to send their kids back to school!”  We searched several blocks, looking rather suspicious, until we finally came across two Mann students we could pose with, and low and behold, one of them was mine!

The AMANNzing Race was the perfect stress relief.  It gave us a great reason to get out of the classroom, and created an incredible bonding experience; helping us to really feel that core value of One Team.  Not only did we have a great time, but I was able to get a frantic tour of the area surrounding our school; finally finding that LA Fitness I knew was somewhere nearby, and taking note of our proximity to St. Joe’s University (I had no idea it was 2 blocks away!), a newly opened Landmark Bar and Grill, and various other lunch spots and stores I may need in the future.  And by jumping in a team member’s car at the start of the race, I was also able to get to know some of the kindergarten and second grade teachers, who I barely ever see, since they reside on the first floor.
There is nothing quite like a little friendly competition to bring out the best in everyone, get us excited for our year, and help relieve some anxiety.  The afternoon was greatly appreciated.

For those of you with that burning question, “Did your team win?!”  No… We completed the list, but we were not first to get back to school.  But, I count it as a win, look at everything I got out of it!  Not to mention, the enjoyment of watching the top 2 teams compete in a tie-breaking Whip Cream Pie eating race!  (See pictures below, no need to explain how that went.)  And we all finished our race with some non-school related conversation, more laughter, great advice for new teachers, and “refreshments” and appetizers at the nearby Chili’s, thanks to our Principal.

   

So tonight, The Eve of The First Day of School, I have chosen to head home on time, instead of putting in those three extra hours I have been.  I have chosen to enjoy an extra long workout, listen to music as I write, cook myself something fresh for dinner, paint my nails, and head to bed early.  Because there is no amount of worrying that can give me more time.  And no amount of time will ever help me feel fully prepared for when those students enter my room.  Whether it’s the first day of school, or the last, there is always more I could do to be ready for my students and whatever curves they throw my way.  In the words of Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”  And, let’s be honest, I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into, but I do know Who is going to lead me through.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” ~Proverbs 3:5

   

The room “looks” ready!  It’s progress, not perfection!
The “Academic Athlete” theme is coming to life…
“Train our Minds like Athletes training for the Olympics!”

3 Responses

  1. First off, how devoted are you in teniachg your students and how much time can you allow to teach? Second, how many students do you have? Currently, I teach at a piano school where we use two major sets of books: Piano Adventures (which are for the beginners/students that treat piano lessons as daycare, etc) and the Celebration Series Perspectives (which can be used for third year students who can work well on songs). Both of the series include a technique and lesson book, however, the Celebration Series presents material in a more mature manner. If you can afford both, that would be very beneficial to your students. If not, I’d recommend the Celebration Series for two reasons: it’s a nationally acclaimed program and it’s a long term program (I was involved in that program for ten years). You see some more about the National Music Certificate Program, the program that correlates with the Celebration Series, using the last link listed below. The downside is that this program is costly for the instructor and the student because of an exam as well as the materials fee for the four books the student should have to be successful on the exam. It’ll probably cost around $50 per student for the materials, so if you would rather deal with less money, go for Piano Adventures. I strongly support both series and I have a large amount of students who would agree.I hope this helps!

  2. Wow! Thank you! I permanently needed to write on my site something like that. Can I implement a fragment of your post to my site?

  3. Michelle

    You will be amazing, Miss S. Tell me all about it after dismissal tomorrow =) Praying for you <3

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Dare to Teach with Love… Never cease to Learn.


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