Today is the first day of school for students in the Conway Schools. Now that I've been retired from teaching for a few years, the Back to School ads no longer cast a pall of gloom over the final weeks of summer break. The long, long school year does not loom ahead, with its burden of budget cuts, niggling new policies, and paperwork. No more faculty meetings! No hall duty! Freedom!
The first day of school....oh, the memories! Like a racehorse, you have to be prepared to leap out of the starting gate ... because it's the best time for a teacher to set the tone, establish the limits, sort out the class. By the end of the first 15 minutes, you've identified the 'problem students' and can begin cutting them out of the herd, diluting their influence. You're busy scoping out the day's routine and learning all the names; the kids are just worried about who they will sit with at lunch. If your college program had really wanted to prepare you, you would have learned the principles of group management and discipline--and most of all, you would understand that students who are engaged and busy exert their own controls. Instead, you've likely learned the ropes on your own (or left the field.) Still, the first day of school always feels like starting up a steep hill....and finding, at the top, that there are nothing but more hills ahead.
The PTA at one school usually donated an apple for each teacher; if they had really loved us, they would have brought throat lozenges. Out of training, you have a sore throat and raspy voice by the end of the first day; after a week this problem disappears (until next year.) But the first day you can't spare your throat because there's too much to say, to ask, to repeat. You go home and gargle hot salt water.
The first day of school means fairly barren bulletin boards (despite your effort to create something inviting.) In time, all the neat stacks, spare walls, bare tables, and lined-up chairs will give way to the comfortable clutter of a classroom where learning is taking place, and you'll be looking for space to put up another display.
It's all behind me now! Wonder why I'm feeling just a little wistful.....