Good Life

Notes from a Teacher | Teachers preparing for first day of school, too

Every year at the end of August, I can feel the vibrations around the neighborhood, in the grocery store, at the pool and in the local stores. You know, the time of year when parents of school-aged children are doing the happy dance! Oh, I know the happy dance — I’m doing the happy dance myself! I might be the teacher, but I am also a mom. The happy dance comes at the end of a long, fun-filled summer — a summer filled with wet bathing suits, sand filled vehicles, mildewed beach towels, empty wallets, fresh-cut grass tracked across your hardwood floors, endless sleepovers, pool dates, golf dates, play dates and movie dates.

Parents are quite ready for school to start and frankly, so are most of the teachers. (Come on teachers, you know we are. ....) We have a pretty good idea what you are thinking at the end of the summer, but here’s a glimpse into what we are thinking.

Come the middle of August, my batteries are re-charged, and I am thinking ahead to the coming year. What kind of group will I get? Will anyone cry on the first day? Will I cry on the first day? Will they hit each other? Can they write their names, stand in a line, raise their hands, read, write, speak English, listen when I’m talking, and more importantly find the bathroom in time? These are just a few of the questions that are beginning to creep into my brain.

As I brush these questions aside, I begin to think about what a teacher’s goals are for the year. Our most important goal is to help children love school. We want them to wake up in the morning excited about the coming day, and at the end of the day, we want them to want to come back! (And it would be nice if we looked forward to coming back, too.) We want them to learn to be kind to their classmates, their teachers and their friends. We want them to not be afraid to try something new and to not be discouraged if they fail. (To that end, I try to make at least two or three mistakes a day just to be a good role model for them.) We want them to be curious about their world, be inquisitive and be open to new ideas. We want them to take turns, to share, to play fair and to want to learn.

On a more personal note, there are certain goals I have for myself this school year. First, I would like to make good on the statement that I made all last year: “I’m so close to my new school, I could walk!” It would be nice to make it through the day without getting called to the principal’s office for a completely honest mistake, and make it home without glitter, paint, permanent marker or coffee on some part of my body. I promise not to pack my new “drag behind me while I’m walking teacher bag” full of books, resources, teacher aides or other items that I will never open during the evening. I will try to not take my students early to art or music, or pick them up late. (I don’t know why, but the special teachers tend to frown upon that.) In addition, I want to be sure to clean up all the glitter, play dough, paint splatters and permanent marker before the custodian shows up. (It would be nice to keep her in my corner this year, cause she’s pretty awesome.) These are just a few of my “new year’s resolutions.” I’ll keep you posted.

Technically, there are certain things we teachers are paid to do. You know, teach the kids to read, add numbers, write their name, define photosynthesis, do calculus, write a book report, speak another language, stand in line without pinching their neighbors, and other good stuff — all those mandatory items. (Well, most of it.) But as many of you know, we all perform some added duties that are incidental to our job. There are many little bonuses that your tax dollars are paying for. Here’s a peek into what we do in between the “good stuff.”

As soon as the children come into the room in the morning, we hit the ground running. We collect permission slips, lunch money, tissues, notes for the teachers, box tops for education (keep ’em coming), excuses about missing items, stories about the night before (sometimes a little too much information about stories from the night before), news about the tooth fairy, who has a loose tooth, and the low-down on birthday parties.

This all occurs in the first five minutes, and typically all at once. If you can’t listen and respond to seven or eight kids at once, just throw in the towel right now. As the day progresses, we will bandage the cut, console the broken heart, hug the weepy, discipline the unruly and counsel the angry. We will try very hard to fill their every moment with a love for learning, while trying to raise their self-esteem, teach them good sportsmanship, fair play and instill a sense of pride in all they do.

All the while, every moment of the day we remember that each of these children in our care is very, very special to someone. They are someone’s grandchild, niece, nephew, son or daughter. They are unique, they are fragile and they are loved. They are loved not only by their family, but each and every single day by their teacher.