Monday, August 29, 2016

Why I Hate the First Day of School

I love, love, love teaching, but I hate the first day of school.  I surely wish we could fast-forward to mid-September.  We'd all be comfortable with each other, we'd be teaching academics instead of rules, and for goodness sakes the supplies would be labeled and put away.  I breathed an audible sigh of relief today once I managed to successfully store the umpteen tissue boxes my parents graciously sent in.  I mean that "gracious" sincerely; I'm so fortunate to work in a school where the parents care, support and donate more than we even ask for.  But for today, it's a lot to sort out!

I generally have a good sense of time without having to look at a clock.  I think it's a teacher superpower.  But on the first day of school, I haven't the foggiest notion what time it is.  9:30 feels like 2:30 and suddenly at 2:30 I realize I haven't even told them what's for homework.  And the idea of students not coming to the classroom until the usual time in the morning?  Understandably, that's a joke.  I get it- parents want to walk their kids in, but why do I still think, in my head, that I have until 8:05 to get prepared for them?  I was just starting to write on the whiteboard this morning while going over some last minute things with a new co-worker when they made the announcement they were letting the kids in.  My co-worker literally went running out of my classroom mid-sentence, blurting, "I still needed to pee!"  And it was on... 

I am also fortunate in that many of my parents label their kids' supplies for them before they even send them in.  You'd think this would make desk organizing a cinch on the first day.  But, no.  Apparently which folder is for which subject is a potentially life altering decision.  It takes forever.  Today, I finally put a time limit on it and said, "Okay, shove it all in your desk.  We're moving on!" Last year, I actually had a student ask me to help him sort his folders into rainbow order.  This same child couldn't have told you where even one of those folders even was one month later.  

I'd be curious to know if any school has ever gotten every child home correctly on the first day.  If so, they deserve to go ahead and call the first day of school the last and close down for the year, because they have arrived-- THAT is a school of perfect staff members, parents and students.  I'm pretty sure it's a mathematical impossibility and we're all just rolling the dice each year hoping we aren't the lucky (guilty) ones with a stranded student or two.  

There are many petty reasons I hate the first day of school, but the main one is deeper than that.  These kids aren't "mine" yet.  They think they want to be, and I know they already are, but it takes some time to sort it out.  I've read their files, but that doesn't tell me what I really need to know.  It takes time to learn their idiosyncrasies and their fears.  I don't yet know their strengths so I can work to bring them out.  I haven't yet figured out what makes them laugh or how they look right before they're going to cry so I can try to stop it from happening.  I can't wait until the time I really know them and they are more than just a name on my roster.  

Sometimes this takes a couple of weeks and other times it takes more like a couple of months.  Based on the comfort level I felt in my classroom today, I'm thinking it's going to go quickly this year.  I hope if I've learned anything in these past ten years, it's that-- how to make kids feel comfortable from day one.  Because really and truly, we all hate the first day even if we love school.  It's boring, it's long, it's awkward, and there are a lot of menial tasks to accomplish.  But it's also necessary so that we can enjoy days 2-180 living, laughing, and learning together.  Bring it on!  

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