Moving from elementary school to junior high, when I was a kid, was the peak of nervousness before school started. Would I know anybody in my classes? Who were going to be my friends? Would my teachers be nice? What would happen at lunchtime? These questions and whole bunch of others, made for a very long night. I remember that the transition from junior high to high school didn’t cause nearly the same amount of angst.
Then I became a teacher.
I don’t know about other teachers, but the night before the first day of school for me was also a long night. And actually it never got easier. Even after 16 years in the classroom. Maybe it does after 20 or 30, I don’t know. But I eventually just knew that it was going to be a restless night. I couldn’t wait to get into the classroom, around my colleagues, and with students, then I calmed down.
Looking back now, I wish I had thought more the kids and about the questions that they were asking themselves on the night before the first day of school.
Will I get lost? Will my teachers like me? Will I make friends? Who will sit with me at lunch? Will I be safe?
Because, as a teacher, I had the great opportunity to answer those questions. I could make sure a kid didn’t get lost, that she/he would know that I like her/him. I could create opportunities for kids, especially new kids, to meet new people and become friends. I could work with our administrators to create safe social lunches. And I could make my classroom a safe place.
If I had focused on the kids, their questions, and the answers under my control, I believe I would have slept like a baby. Because the first day of school wasn’t about me.
It was about the kids. And it still is.