First Day Jitters

It was last night that I had to admit the truth: I was in a panic about going back to teaching in the morning. “How can I be so scared?” I wondered. “We’vestress just finished two weeks of professional development, my room is all set up. This is my eighth year, I’m the grade chair, and I’ve been told I’ve been given the gifted class!”

My husband was wondering the same thing. “It will be fine,” he said with conviction, a  conviction I could not share.

Anxiety. How would I get through the day? What if we ran out of stuff to do? What if, more scary, I forgot to do something important, such as putting the right dismissal tag on a student? That could mean sending a kid home on the bus when they were a walker.

What if the class ran away? It happened to me once. I was walking a group of kindergartners back to the building from enrichment class and the leader, then the rest of the class, for some incomprehensible reason just bolted. I got them to stop in only about 50 feet …. the literacy coach instructed me that in the future I would walk backward in front of the class.  Oh what a memory.

“Stop this!” I told myself. I put all the teaching materials I could think of in my teacher cart and went to bed early, setting the clock for 5 a.m.

By the time I got in the car, I felt like one of those guys in the troop transport boat on D-Day, traveling across the English channel not knowing what I was going to face. I got into class and looked around, put out the work I had prepared. I turned on the computer and the projector. And I waited for the kids and their parents. When they came I got the parent information sheets filled in while the kids did the “all about me” paper I’d set out.  Then the moment of truth: I called them to the carpet.

They enjoyed doing the finger play “this old man” to open up carpet time. They understood the first of a number of discussions about classroom management and procedures, and like most every class I’ve ever had on the first day, they seemed to believe that being a good student means sitting quietly. They will learn that this is not my way. They liked the book The Kissing Hand and they diligently worked at doing a four way organizer about it. By that time I had determined that they were pretty normal over all and they were responding to some of my regular teacher questions and games. In the afternoon, we practiced the dismissal and read First Day Jitters, about a teacher who is scared to go to the first day school.

“But teachers don’t get scared!” They said.

Believe me, teachers do get scared of the first day. I remember the movie Hope Floats, where the lead character says “Beginnings are scary and endings are often sad, so it’s good to stay in the middle… ” True of school, as of life. But now the year has begun and I can stay in the middle for a long long time. It’s good to be over that first day.

. And yes, I put the right dismissal tags on everyone, thank God!

5 thoughts on “First Day Jitters”

  1. Great article! I just began my twenty-fourth year of teaching middle school, and I still get nervous. My sleep is still sometimes haunted with the craziest of teacher nightmares. I guess it is all because, despite our experience, teachers care so much and want everything to go smoothly– for our new students and for ourselves.

    1. I once had a friend who had “server nightmares.” He was a waiter and would dream that 30 tables sat down at once and all got angrier and angrier as the dream progressed. Yes, “ok” is not really good enough is it.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. What a fine portrait!

    Food for thought, serious athletes have pre-event “anxiety.” But in that case, maybe arousal is a better word. Anyway in sports psychology some anxiety (word?) is considered healthy.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      It’s very much like that. I can remember the night before a horse show, being unable to go to sleep, worrying, waking up in the middle of the night — and they saying: what’s at stake? But you want to win, you want to do well.

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