I hear a lot of disgruntled thought bubbles these days. Whispered under the breath of an exhausted parent who can’t believe a teacher would ask a student to bring a box of pencils to class. Or loudly audible among a sea of stressed out faces as the price of binders, folders, and colorful sticky notes continue to increase.
We have to go back again already?
Yes. I understand the sentiment.
As a new teacher I have had my fair share of mild to moderate panic set in at the thought of the new school year. There’s school supplies and clothing and teeth cleanings and car repairs and the dreaded readjustment to the 7am-3pm school day. Sometimes I feel like I am swearing away my soul until Fall break; hoping that nothing malfunctions or runs out before then. God forbid we run out of hand sanitizer in my class.
Teachers, parents, and students the world over are taking a deep sigh and settling in for the tidal wave of school to hit the mainland.
Here we go again.
But let’s take a second to reflect here. Because we must. Or else we will lose our minds and our freshly sharpened pencils.
Yesterday was really cool for me for a few reasons.
Yesterday I showed my best friend my first classroom for the first time. Lots of firsts. I held the door open for her as she joined me and a handful of other stressed teaching staff in the building on a Saturday. I walked her into my room and gave her the tour.
“Eventually this will be where my white board is,” I said pointing to a hilarious sheet of paper hanging on my wall with the words “White Board Goes Here” scribbled on it.
Her face lit up.
“And this is my Word Wall for U.S. History,” I noted half interested as I eye-balled a pile of un-laminated pictures I had yet to get to.
She smiled some more.
“Oh my goodness, Mimi. You have a CLASSROOM. It felt like just the other day when little 14 year old you and me were sitting right here. Now some little kiddo gets to have YOU as a teacher.”
It took another second to sink in.
Up until recently I had the habit of calling myself a “Fake Teacher.” I had student taught under a mentor, and while I had my own students and a shared classroom, I never really considered myself a true teacher.
A teacher in training, a newbie newb, a joke of sorts.
Brennyn began snapping pictures of me pointing to a variety of cheesy things around my room as she looked on with utter pride.
I am the real deal.
Polka dot cork boards, seating charts, a yard stick I plan on carrying around with me as I pester my students about their extra-curricular activities and if I can come to them and sit in the front row. It’s the whole 9 yards…get it. Because I have a yard stick.
Sorry. Not sorry. My students are going to have to get used to my awful puns. But they had better Walken with a good attitude or else (I have a collage of Sir Christopher Walken posted on my front door). Let the cheesy teacher-ness begin.
But my joy didn’t end there.
After a few hours of running frantically around my classroom making copies and contemplating essential questions for my lesson plans I went down to the Castle rock Outlets with my mom to do some shopping for the upcoming school year.
Our first stop was to an Express. Because I’m cheap. And poor. And a teacher.
I picked out a handful of 50% off tops and skirts to channel my inner Zooey Deschanel and headed to the cash register. As the sweet high school grad rung me up I made small talk. I asked if she had another denim shirt that wasn’t snagged (I hadn’t noticed until that moment, again, cheapy cheap). She was happy to grab me another. I asked if she had any discounts this time of year for teachers.
Nope, unfortunately not.
Ah, well. I thanked her for going out of her way to get me the shirt.
Then something amazing happened.
A man from behind me in line (and a long line at that since I was just chatting it up with my cashier) came up to me and the cashier and asked if he could give his military discount to me. He insisted.
Military ID in hand he said with the most special smile, “I really appreciate the work you do. If anyone deserves a discount, it’s you.”
The wind was knocked out of my chest.
You want to give little old fake-but-very-real teacher me your highly esteemed military discount? I was completely taken aback. I thanked him profusely and couldn’t believe it. My faith in humanity was restored entirely.
Unlike so many of us this time of year, this amazing man saw the value in me when I could not. When talking about my teaching and the work I do everyday I tend to throw around some jokes. Surprise, surprise.
"Well that's why I get paid the big bucks," I jab.
It's no secret that my salary over the stretch of a lifetime will be a tad bit laughable. And during this time of year it's easy to slip into the mindset that it's all for nothing and that the kids will eat you alive out there. It's easy sometimes to forget what we're doing this all for.
When I get this way I watch this.
Goose bumps, folks.
So yes, going back to school can kind of suck. And you had better believe that come October we will be having an entirely different conversation. My classroom will be a petri dish of kid germs and I will likely be buried in ungraded papers, assessments, and grueling professional development meetings.
But you know what?