Ah, back to school. That glorious time when we rise before the sun, guzzle down our weight in coffee and sit through that ever-wonderful school zone traffic. The days when our nerves are high and the anxiety of getting a grab bag of students we’ve never met leads to pre-school-year nightmares about sending children to the office on the first day (true story) and classes running amok.
But then, the first day comes and goes in a blur, the kids are less scary than you thought they’d be and, before you know it, you’re cataloging good moments in the first four days and looking forward to the next. You retrain your body into what I like to call “grandma hours” (you know, in bed before 9pm, awake before 6am) and get back into the routine of lesson planning and classroom management. You and your classes form tiny little gangs (good gangs) and you all get through the school year together. Okay, some of this may be idealistic – I’m still working on my tiny little gangs, but we’ll get there! I just know it!
Being on day 4 of the first week back is pretty predictable. The kids are starting to let down their “angel guard” and show you how they really behave. You’ve made mental notes of all of your “fidgeters” and little ADHD babies and are getting to know faces enough to get remember who not to sit next to each other on the seating chart. You’re dog tired because you haven’t been awake for this many consecutive hours for the last 3ish months and you’ve scrapped tomorrow’s lesson plan because you’re too hoarse to teach.
Sound familiar to any of my teacher friends?
Y’all. This is my life right now, and I adore it. Teaching 8th grade has it’s challenges, and they mostly involve sassy attitudes, but in my eyes the benefits outweigh any of the bad. These kids are impressionable. They are the “big kids” in school and like to be held to that “upperclassmen” standard. They’re trying to figure out who they are while wading around in a pond full of people who are trying to do the exact same – sometimes at their expense – and they’re awkward as all get out.
Don’t you remember middle school? Doesn’t it make you shudder just thinking about it? For me, middle school was flat out terrible. I was awkward, had a bad haircut, and dressed like a teacher (sometimes kids asked if I was one, Thanks, mom!). And I keep a little reminder of this gloriously terrible and awkward time in my life on my desk, to humble me every day, in the form of my 8th grade picture.
You see, teaching isn’t about having power. It isn’t about lording over children and strong-arming them into doing what you wish – it’s quite the opposite. It’s about humility and dying to yourself a little every day when you have to repeat instructions for the bazillionth time to the kid who swore he was listening to you. It’s about helping them through the relational drama and getting them to learn at the same time. It’s about making them better people who know that in order to be “smart” we have to TRY. We have to remember what it was like to be their age and try to appeal to that kid inside of us.
I also keep that picture on my desk to let the kids know that THINGS CHANGE. IT GETS BETTER. Stormye in 8th grade and Stormye at 27 are two TOTALLY different people (I wasn’t quite the babe I am now – jokes!). But seriously, that picture, to me, symbolizes that we can’t ever keep one version of anyone – especially ourselves – in our minds. My students will change enormously from the start of the year to the end just like they did last year, and the year before and the year before.
Anyway, I’m rambling now – I just care for these little stinkers so dang much and can’t wait to see them flourish this year. I’m overwhelmed by how good the Lord has been to put just the thoughts I need to lead these kids well into my mind at just the right moment. I know this year will be full of challenges, but I’m basking in that ever so blissful beginning-of-the-year optimism that is so easily overlooked.
And looking forward to Friday. 🙂