All of you teachers and parents out there know what I mean… the 1st day of school! (Cue dramatic music.)
I never get over first day jitters.
I buy office supplies like mad. I try to organize, thinking that this year may be the year I keep it up. I plan. I worry…
I go from fun loving, sun bathing, super housewife… to what my husband affectionately calls “Alpa City Teacher” in a matter of days. All of the sudden I’m making appointments, drawing up schedules, planning lessons, and steeling myself for the days ahead.
Yes, I said it— steeling myself. Because as much as I love my job, I know that when I walk into that high school classroom, I better be the biggest deal in the room. I have to own those first few days. I know that if I don’t, my students will eat me alive. I have to be a superhero: fair, honest, a moral and social example, and a little bit fun too.
I have to walk into my classroom and make children learn to love school. Some of my students are 18 years old and have never been to school. I have to teach them to read; many times starting with the alphabet. I have to teach them the social norms that come with living in the United States — and yes this includes instructions like “Don’t stand on the toilet, sit.” I have to talk about racism, discrimination and sexism and how it applies to our classroom. I have to see poverty, plight, and abuse every day and deal with a reality that most people never want to see. And I have to teach these students to pass a NYS Regents exam — because no one cares what your life was or is like — this is America and we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make things of ourselves.
I can do these things.
What I can’t do at this nerve-clanging time is read any more articles or comments about how teachers need to do better… how kids deserve more…how we just took the job to get summers off and good benefits. I get angry and I’m known to lash out. I turn off Facebook and news feeds to my phone because I generally like people and want to keep it that way.
I cannot patiently point out that I had to get a masters degree to even be considered for my job and will actually never make enough money to pay back the interest on my loans (thank you husband for financially supporting me while I do what I love). Oh, and I only get paid for the 10 months a year I actually work and need a second job for those other two that I don’t. I cannot sweetly say that teachers are only one part of a community obligation to help create productive citizens, that maybe there are others responsible for this job too. I cannot get in debates over why I don’t feel bad that your kid didn’t get the teacher they wanted when my students don’t get books and my classroom has 7 leaks in the ceiling.
So while you are reading, blogging, and facebooking about the start to the school year try to remember that you can read because a teacher taught you. You can write a derogatory comment about our profession because a teacher showed you how to write. While you rant about our kids deserving better, try to remember that the sentiment applies to all children, not just your own.
And while you are doing that I will be putting on my cape and tiara… because I am a superhero and I have a job to do. 🙂
“A place to build the Great Society is in the classrooms of America. There your children’s lives will be shaped. Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are still far from that goal. In many places, classrooms are overcrowded and curricula are outdated. Most of our qualified teachers are underpaid…Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty.” 1964 LBJ