The first day of school.
No five words in the English language can fill me with such a sense of panic as those do. Well, except for “Bruce Springsteen died earlier today.” When I hear THOSE five words for real, odds are pretty good that I’ll be taking a bath with a hair dryer.
When I was younger, I dreaded school so much that my dad used to have to throw me over his shoulder and carry me there, kicking and screaming.
And by younger, I mean last week when teachers had to go back to school.
Poor dad. He’s getting too old to carry me there.
Starting school comes with its own special brand of dread for me: bulletin boards. I would rather gnaw off my own limbs than set up a bulletin board. Literally. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m bulletin-board challenged. If there was a class for setting up bulletin boards, I’d have to go to it on the short bus. I painted my whole condo all by myself, but somehow putting construction paper on a bulletin board and arranging a display on it is beyond me.
Luckily, my newspaper students have started volunteering to help me set up my room during the week before kids have to come back. (And by volunteering, I mean that I send them frantic emails all summer begging for help until I wear them down enough to agree to come in). They walk in, I show them proudly whatever I managed to put up on the bulletin boards all by myself, and they unfailingly say, “Oh, that’s so cute! You tried!” Then they pull it all down and start again. But at least the room looks good by the time the rest of the kids come back.
The night before the first day of school might as well be called “National Insomnia Night.” I’m a troubled sleeper under the best of circumstances. With the first day of school looming, I don’t even know why I bother getting in bed. But even if I DO manage to fall asleep, it doesn’t last long, as I have to get up in the middle of the night to get to work on time.
Waking up early again, after a summer of sleeping late, is torture. I know that those of you who work all summer are feeling zero sympathy for me right now, but high school starts at 7:25am. In other words, right around when you nine-to-fivers are waking up, I’m already teaching first period.
The first day of school is infinitely worse for teachers than for students. Students basically just have to show up and listen on the first day of school. Teachers have to spend most of the first day talking, then memorize approximately 150 names. I have the worst memory on the planet when it comes to names. Literally. If you meet me for the first time, I promise that within 30 seconds of meeting you, I’ve forgotten your name. The only exception to this is if you’re wearing a nametag, or you’re REALLY hot. Otherwise, if I’m going to see you again, I have to ask someone who was with me what your name was.
Now multiply that by 150.
Luckily most of the kids in my classes are named Madison, Taylor, Brianna, Zach, Tyler, or Brittany. And with the exception of Brianna and Brittany, all of the names are gender neutral. So if I can’t remember a name, I can usually just call one of those, and I’ll be fine.
Of course, none of the names are SPELLED that way. That’s just how they’re pronounced.
When I was in school, the first day of school meant showing up in a new dress, with a new backpack full of fresh school supplies.
Now, kids don’t usually bother with their backpack on the first day. Instead, they bring their cell phone and ipod. And good luck getting them to shut either off.
It’s also a shift to remember that I’m at work again and therefore can’t use profanity every third word. I admit it. I have a potty mouth. But at school, I HAVE to control it. My mother always likes to remind me that as a teacher, you’re the subject of someone’s dinner table conversation every day of your life.
If you drop an f-bomb in class the first day, I can promise you’ll be the subject of EVERYONE’S dinner table conversation that night. Including your principal’s.
Then, if you make it through the whole day, don’t fall asleep on your feet, learn all the names, and don’t accidentally curse, you have to wake up at the crack of dawn the next day and do it all over again.
Just 184 more school days until summer vacation.