I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.
— Yogi Berra
To paraphrase Carl Sandburg, the school year did not so much creep in on little cat feet as much as it did stalk in.
And as it stalked in, I was doing anything in my power to bring forth that moment when I met my class. I was entering unknown emotional territory. These kids had the advantage of being familiar with the rhythms and personalities of the school more than I had, but, more critically, not knowing what to expect from my new group of students at all, had me on edge. My principal had called for us to meet up in the center of the school for a staff photo, and a chunk of us had traveled over to the lunch tables there to do so. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found, nor was there the parent volunteer to photograph us. I sought out my fellow refugee, CBC (who had also transferred over from her old school), and confided to her that my anxiety level was rising. School was supposed to have already started at this point, and I wanted–and needed–for the opening moments of my day, and school year, to finally begin. Some teachers began to move towards the playground, rapidly filling up with students and anxious parents, to go pick up their classes. But, as if in anticipation of our need to take our leave, our principal came jogging up to us, trying to corral us back for the photo. As if on cue, our photographer at last arrived at around the same time.
At last, we were free to go. I closed my eyes, even contemplated crossing myself, dismissed the thought, and began to walk towards my new class at my new school. The first step of my new life was here.
Once I had my kids, once I had sent off parents with reassurances and closed my classroom door, I looked across at the 25 kids who now sat wondering who this man happened to be.
“I am even more nervous about today than any of you might be of being in 5th grade. This is your school, and for one of the few times in your career as a student, you have an advantage over your teacher…”
After admitting the truth so baldly, I began to slowly find my teacher voice again. Expectations first, an introduction, followed by rules and responsibilities, and ultimately, content. Nevertheless, almost as if I had flown across time zones, with a different recess time, and a different lunch time, my normal timing patterns were way off. Still, I gamely put on my happy face, tried not to let the uncomfortableness show, and I even kept my promise with my refugee colleague to actually eat lunch in the lunch room–something I never, ever did at my old school site.
By the end of the day, I was finding stuff to complain about that made it seem like a new year truly had started. I couldn’t get my computer printer to work. My planbook software had been upgraded and seemed unfamiliar. And there were no school shirts available to wear tomorrow morning for the school’s first Spirit Day of the new school year. I teased my principal that while I didn’t have green, I still had a number of bulldog shirts.
But, on second thought, I made it a point to remind myself that when I got home and found a green shirt I could wear tomorrow, I was also going to bag up the last of my old school’s spirit wear, 15 years worth, and donate it to charity this weekend.
I grabbed my backpack and headed towards the parking lot.
“See you tomorrow”, my principal called behind me.
I paused, smiled, and replied, “Yeah, yeah, I think I’ll come back again tomorrow.”
I walked out the door to chuckles following me.