First Day of School Jitters: from a teacher.


I probably won’t sleep tonight. I have already started drinking Smirnoff Ice (pineapple flavor is tremendous, but we are out of my favorite- mango), in hopes that my nerves will just shut down. I will also take at least one sleeping pill at about nine o’clock. Five thirty a.m. is going to hurt.

I read the sweetest open letter to teachers this morning, from a lady who hated/loved her daughter’s first grade teacher. It’s been circulating on Facebook this week. It was so encouraging, and exhorted us teachers to love and welcome the precious souls who cross our thresholds tomorrow. The author says those kiddos, no matter how old, want to be liked by their teachers.

I have a secret for you: we teachers want to be liked, too. I have already decided what I am wearing tomorrow, I have my class handbooks and audition packets run off, tables and chairs are neatly in place, lesson plans have been written through October, with notes for the rest of the year’s lessons. Suburban requests for our Thespian trips have been submitted in hopes of beating the athletic coaches to the punch, scripts for our opening play have been numbered and assigned a character, now they just await the corresponding student actor.

I want my students to believe that I am competent. I want them to trust that if they put their fragile egos in my hands that I will do my best to nurture them. I want them to aspire to excellence because I have set that example. But I really, really, really want them to like me.

I want to be the teacher that students talk about at lunch: “Who do you have for third period?” “Mrs. Bryant for Theatre.” “Oh man, I hear she’s cool!”

I want to be the teacher that kids come back to visit.

We teachers are always told that it doesn’t matter if the kids like us, as long as they respect us and learn from us. I don’t know about that. I mean, I know those things are of the utmost importance, but it just seems like being liked is an okay wish. I know some teachers get out of whack on this, and in an effort to be liked, cross some boundaries. That’s not what I am talking about.

I cringe at the idea that students might dread coming to my room.

I wish I could be Sunshine Sally all the time (she was this sort of odd children’s show character in the 70’s that my Grandmother would put on the console television in the mornings to keep me entertained while she sewed. I remember a yellow dress). My goodness, that woman was a smiler! I have had friends over the years that were their own brand of Sunshine. I teach with a few (though admittedly they were more common down in the elementary ranks). I just am not that radiant. I am pretty intense, pretty focused, pretty task oriented. I am also somewhat contemplative, a bit of an introvert with a dry, sarcastic wit. High school students don’t always know how to interpret that. I can be prickly.

So tomorrow, I will strap on my microphone, greet kids at the door, checking their yellow schedule printouts to make sure they are in the right place, I will smile until my cheeks hurt, and I will secretly be begging inside for them to like me.

Time to crack open another drink and go upstairs to try on my first day outfit. Wish me luck!

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