In about 6 days, I will roll out of bed, feed my cats, guzzle down the hot, liquid caffeine, shower and dress in something conservative yet comfy, drive the astronomically long distance of 38 miles, and then open wide my classroom doors to welcome in 150 sophomore students nervously awaiting their fate in the English II Honors classroom.
They will carry mixed emotions about this new school year. They will be wondering what type of teacher Ms. Jones really is and can they earn an A this year. Some will have their summer assignments prepped and ready to turn in, eager to please. While others have procrastinated as long as they can and plan to drop the class before the assignment is due.
Either way, what they don’t know, is that I, their teacher, their classroom leader, the one who is supposed to teach them what they don’t know, am anxious, too.
School has not even started, and I have already had several dreams about my students or rather teaching. Most of the dreams consist of weird occurrences with fellow teachers trying to help me teach, but still, the point being, weeks before my new students even arrive in my classroom, I am thinking about them and their new school year.
Some things I worry about as a teacher, most of which occur on a DAILY BASIS:
- Are my lessons good?
- Does the lesson even make sense?
- Are the kids going to like them?
- Is this too elementary?
- Are the kids going to like me?
- Is what I am saying making sense?
- Do they are already know this?
- Am I talking down to them?
- Am I being fair?
- Is this too much work for them?
- Are my expectations too high?
- Do they get my sarcasm?
- Am I going to get into trouble for saying that?
- Did I keep my word with the students?
- Did I misspell anything?
- Oh geez, I made so many typos today, they probably think I am an idiot?
- Is it reasonable to expect them to do this?
- I hate grading papers.
- Are they going to pass their big state test?
- What if they don’t? Did I fail them? It’s my entire fault; I was supposed to prepare them?
- Did they learn anything?
- I hope they all come back safely tomorrow.
- Oh no, they are getting their driver’s license. I wish I could wrap them in bubble wrap to protect them.
- Ugh, why are they failing?
- Please don’t make me have to talk to their parents.
I like to pretend I hide these worries from my students well. If I don’t, then I am secure in the knowledge they are too busy with their own lives to realize that I, too, am anxious; either that or they have a firm belief that teachers are not humans and cannot possibly have feelings. Our entire existence is merely to ruin their lives.
So, with this year quickly approaching, I like to evaluate my anxieties along with writing a massive list of every little tiny thing that must get done from listening to the yearly god-awful training videos on sexual harassment and blood borne pathogens and much more, to making sure all the decorations are up in my classroom, to getting my copies made, arranging my desks, class rosters, markers, erasers, calendars, self evaluation forms, lesson plans for at least the first two weeks of school finalized, etc.
This will be my 5th year teaching. I have been lucky to have taught 10th grade English Honors for all my years of teaching, so the amount of lesson plans I have are becoming quite extensive. I have reached that “magical year,” as my friend Tracy puts it, when I can just reach into my bag and pull out a lesson and be done.
My students’ scores from last year rocked (proud of my babies), so I am not having to reinvent the wheel too terribly much. So, I should be confident in attacking this school year.
But for some reason, I am not.
I am watching all my other teacher friends scramble to put lessons together, to exclaim their to-do list is longer than mine, to jump from meeting to meeting, becoming increasingly more frantic about the start of the school year. I am, literally, watching them FREAK OUT. And all I keep thinking is, “why am I not freaking out with them?”
Each year after my first year of teaching, has progressively gotten easier, naturally. But as I am beginning to journey into this 5th year, my anxiety is reaching depths that are new to me. What I am most anxious about is not being anxious.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still anxious about the well-being of my students, but this year I am prepared. Yesterday was the first day back for pre-planning, and I left at 4 with a fully decorated classroom. I left at 4 with the first 9 weeks tentatively planned with engaging and challenging lessons. I left at 4 with the items on my to-do list significantly marked off. I left at 4 with a clean classroom and a clear desk.
My mom keeps telling me, it is because I am so organized. But I just can’t accept that I am THAT organized. I keep waiting for all the poopy stuff to hit the fan and everything to come down at once.
I am simply anxious about not being anxious. And I don’t like that feeling.