Friday, August 29, 2008

Immersed in the flow


It's Friday afternoon, about a half an hour before my middle school students show up, and this is the first time all week my mind has been in some semblance of repose.

No bones about it, being a teacher is mentally hard work. Early on, I've been inundated with forms to fill out, protocols to follow, for everything from assemblies to medical emergencies, new teacher meetings, departmental meetings, training seminars, software uploads, materials to order... ugh. Thank goodness for some internal survival mechanism that keeps me afloat through all this flurry. I reach a certain apogee of stress, and then it's as if a dam is released and I am calm, yet alert through the storm. This trait makes me the go-to guy in the clutch.

My first day was surprisingly relaxed. I could hardly sleep the night before, stomach butterflies and racing thoughts. I got to sleep around 1 a.m. and woke at 5. My classes at the high school went off well. My first hour class I've got two students with the same first and last names. That's a first! And my third hour class has 32 students. Luckily, I've got 33 desks.

These first two weeks are about building a sense of community/class/family pride and rapport. Rules and routines are being established now. I try to be nice and not-too-demanding, stricter than normal, but not going off half-cocked. So far, discipline has not been an issue at all. I've got a few squirrelly sorts at the middle school, but they got in line with just a little encouragement.

It's hard to believe that all the hard work and financial and personal sacrifices the past three years have reached a culmination. I'm a public school teacher now! Of course, I was this spring, too, on a part-time basis (and was surprised to still receive paychecks all summer). And I don't have my own classroom yet at the high school. But this sense of arrival, of reaching a long-sought goal, has me both pleased and perplexed.

This always happens. Once a goal is attained there's a letdown. For me, the journey is always more enjoyable than the destination. And knowing that I've arrived, that what I'm doing now is what I'll most likely be doing in 10 years, leaves me a little sad and confused. But I'm here, teaching, improving lives, doing good and loving it. There's so much work ahead. The job is the journey. No two days are the same.

Week One of the 2008-09 school year is almost in the books. First assignments have been turned in and graded. Unit plans are being refined and honed. The posters are up. The pencils sharpened. Gradebooks (both paper and electronic) are filled with names. Boxes of chalk are in drawers, waiting to be used. Books are on the shelves. A din of voices echoes down the hallways. The school year is underway and 111 trusting young souls depend on me to guide them successfully through the world of words.

Wish us all the best of luck. We'll need it.

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