Teaching: a retrospective list

If I hadn’t taken this year off to stay home with Charlotte, today would be my first day of teaching for the new school year. This morning my Facebook feed was full of posts from my teacher friends as well as moms sending their kids off to the first day of school, and as I scanned them I found myself full of mixed emotions. I decided it might help if I made a list of things I will and won’t miss about teaching.

– Will miss the sea of expectant faces looking up at me for the first time from their desks, some with solemn expressions, some with looks of anxiety, and a few with cheeky grins. 

– Won’t miss trying to figure out which of those cheeky grins are expressions of good humor, and which ones are masking devious thoughts of how to make my life difficult.

– Will miss those first couple magical days, when almost every student is on their best behavior and eager to work hard and please their teachers.

– Won’t miss the days after that, when almost every student will test the limits of my patience to see what they can and can’t get away with in my classroom (how many times can I get up to sharpen my pencil before she says something? Can  I stop and chat with my friend on my way back to my desk? What random question can I ask that will derail her lesson and send her skipping down a rabbit trail? How many times can I call out without raising my hand before she snaps? :)).

– Will miss introducing students to great books that may soon become their new favorites (Hunger Games, the Percy Jackson books, Maximum Ride, anything by Wendy Mass, Death by Denim, City of Bones, Savvy, Out of my Mind…the list goes on and on).

– Won’t miss the endless recitation of rules and procedures that seem to dominate the first couple of days, explaining how to fill out planners and take notes and write warm-up exercises and walk quietly in the halls and be silent during fire drills and listen when the intercom goes off…the more I talk the more the students’ eyes glaze over as all interest slowly leaks from their faces and they turn into zombie students…

– Will miss exchanging first impressions of students with my teammates, from “Johnny is fascinated with all things mechanical” to “Rachel told me she wants to be a pediatrician” to “Suzy has a new little brother that makes sleep hard to come by at her house.”

– Won’t miss that initial visit from the counselor, when she fills us in on some of the the hardships, struggles, heartbreaks, and tragedies our students have and are facing (although it always helped me look at each student with new eyes, and gave me an extra dose of patience and compassion.)

 – Will miss chatting in the teachers’ lounge over lunch, exchanging first impressions, frustrations, and hilarious anecdotes from our first few days with students.

– Won’t miss trying to make it to lunch (7th grade always had last lunch, starting at 12:45) with my stomach complaining and my mouth getting dry, trying to keep the students on task as a symphony of rumbling tummies erupts around me.
– Will miss the excitement and adrenaline rush that always came with the first day of school, wondering what the students will be like, whether I can get them excited about reading, whether they will enjoy my class or dread it…

– Won’t miss the exhaustion that always overwhelmed me at the end of the day for the first week or so, when I would come home and collapse on the couch, knowing for certain that swimming the English Channel or climbing Mount Everest couldn’t be any more exhausting than facing a class full of 7th graders for eight hours.

Yep, there is a lot I will miss about teaching. It was and is my passion and calling. But all I have to do is listen to sweet Charlotte coo and squeal for a minute to know that I made the right decision, and that I am still very much a teacher, with simply a much smaller class. To all my teacher friends out there in the trenches, know that I am with you in spirit. I hope that as you begin a new year you can take some time to think about all the things you love (or not) about teaching, and why you’ve committed to do this terribly hard and absolutely wonderful job.

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