After a couple crazy days of preparation, I’m ready.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday moving furniture and hiding everything that
could become a projectile. Friday I went to the grocery store and stocked
up on healthy snacks and foods that require little to no cooking.
Yesterday I spent making three days worth of iced-coffee (necessities first,
people!), washing and filling water bottles, and making sure I had enough clean
clothes to get through the week. Oh, yeah, and in addition to
getting me and my classroom ready for the start of school, there is this pesky
Though back-to-school time can feel a bit like getting whacked in the face with
a downed tree limb, I know no one who’s had to work all summer wants to hear me
complain about going back to work after a lovely and prolonged vacation.
So I’ll focus on the upside…There is an upside, right? Yes, teachers like
to complain as much as our students, but in some ways going back to school
offers even the adults with a unique opportunity. I used to like going
back to school, not just for the shopping, okay, mostly for the shopping, but
also because September brought with it a chance to start over. For most
kids, and adults lucky enough to be in education, New Year’s is celebrated in
September. There aren’t too many businesses that completely shut down for
nearly eight weeks and return with entirely new clientele. Sure, my
colleagues stay the same, for the most part. But none of my team members
are the type to hold a grudge from the meeting last May when I acted like a
snotty bitch after a bad class–because we all had those days, and we all want
the same opportunity to start again. Considering how rough a teacher’s
first (or ninth?) year can go, the chance to reinvent yourself after a summer
of first decompressing and then recharging is truly a gift.
It occurred to me recently–probably in the wee hours of the morning when I
awoke in a cold sweat planning for classes I don’t even teach–that if I added up
my years teaching, student teaching, and my own seventh grade disaster, I mean,
experience, I’ve spent over a decade in the seventh grade. Bill Murray’s
character’s trauma in Groundhog Day
can’t hold a flame to the horror this thought evokes in most people. Ten
years of outwardly hating, while secretly envying, the mean girls. Ten
years of being snubbed by the cute jocks. Ten years of bad fashion
trends, poorly applied make-up, braces, pimples, and oh, yeah, seventh grade
grammar. Go ahead, shudder, gag, or whatever other bodily response you
have to this idea. Really, though, it’s not so bad.
There’s truth to the idea things never happen the same way twice. If
you’re lucky, you’ll learn from your mistakes, so you’re able to dodge the bullet
the second time around. If you’re on a slightly slower learning curve,
you should at least be able to brace yourself for impact after you realize you
once again sped-read through your open house notes and are now facing a room of
scrutinizing parents with nothing left to tell them for the remaining seven
minutes–so hopefully you’re more comfortable attempting to avoid a really, long
awkward silence by filling it with a few minutes of stand-up. I’m not speaking
from experience, or anything, simply postulating. If nothing else, just
having experienced it before, you’re a day, or a year, or a decade wiser.
Half the mean girls, you’ve discovered, learned it from mean moms; the other
half are really nice kids just trying to survive the cutthroat world that is middle
school. And those boys who left you standing without a partner at every
dance through prom, well, you’re wise enough now to realize most put the
“dumb,” in “dumb jock,” and the others are secretly
suppressing their inner-geek until they’re smart enough to realize it’s their
brains, not their brawn, that will earn them both the BMW and the woman. Even the good things change, whether we want them to or
not. That perfect lesson from last
year, or last period even? Like my
mom’s anti-recipe cooking, it’ll never come out exactly the same again, so
enjoy it while it lasts. Life, no
matter how repetitive it may seem on the surface, is less déjà vu, and more
chance to renew.
ten years worth of knowledge in hand and a willingness to grow with the flow, back to school should be more of
a breeze than a hurricane. Worse comes to worse, though, there’s always
next September–only 185 days left to go!