I want to tell you a story. Imagine a bright-eyed, can-do, I'm-a-Stereotypical-Gonna-Stand-On-Desks-And-Change-The-World-With-My-Teaching attitude, with fresh ideas and materials, pencils sharpened and books leveled teacher. First day. Parents leave. Just the kids and me. I was born for this. I have wanted to teach since I was 7 years old (some people called me "bossy" and others called me a "leader"...you know what I'm talking about). This day was going to be one to remember. I went through my checklist of "get to know you" activities and icebreakers (thanks to some helpful friends on ProTeacher--remember Proteacher?!) and my notes from student teaching. I had attempted several of the activities and quickly figured out a few were too difficult for this group of 2nd graders. Aaaaand then I looked at the clock in horror. It was only 9:30. After I walked my class out to recess, I FREAKED out. I had nothing else planned. I wanted to bawl my eyes out. I calmly walked across the hall to one of the literacy coaches and told her my situation. She laughed and calmed me down. She brought over some "choice" activities (I had student taught in 4th grade and had never heard of "choice time" until right then) and easy literacy games (dry erase boards, sight word dice, etc.). I was nervous that I'd be in trouble for letting the kids play until I could figure out what other activities to do at lunch (totally oblivious to the fact that I had an old-school principal that was a huge proponent of centers and a more hands-on approach anyway). The kids were fine, and I don't even remember what I ended up doing the rest of the day. When my mom and former host-teacher came in to visit at the end of the day I burst into tears (I cry very easily...pretty much at any confrontation or ounce of discomfort and tears come to my eyes--super cool when you're trying to be professional). I remember feeling like I had made the biggest mistake someone could ever make and was in the wrong career because it was SO MUCH HARDER THAN ANYONE CAN IMAGINE. They reminded me that if I still felt like that at the end of the year I could try switching to an intermediate grade if one opened up (it did, and I stayed because, turns out, second grade is actually where my heart is!). I went home with that in mind and trudged through the rest of the fall and things certainly got better.
I can laugh about it now of course, but back then that fear and anxiety and pressure was VERY real. On my first day, I had a rude awakening. Teaching wasn't what I thought it would be. It wasn't even what my student-teaching self thought it would be. I remember thinking, "Gee, when my classes end and all I have to do is teach it will be so much easier." I was so naive. Soooo naive. If you're reading this, you are probably a teacher and you likely know what I'm talking about. So, my hope in this post is twofold. 1.) I want to remind myself what it's like to be a new teacher (which, we basically all are every fall) and 2.) help other teachers prepare for the day they are most likely to go home crying (not parent-teacher conferences, that's another post for another time). Even if new kids are added to your roster after you've labeled and alphabetized it all. You'll be okay. Promise.