Every August, I mourn the end of my freedom. Freedom to wake up late, to cook lunch and leisurely eat it while watching a rerun from the eighties, freedom to spend Sunday nights relaxing. Filled with anxiety, I prepare to meet 100 kids I’ve never known. I consider all the things I’d like to do better from last year. It can bring on many sleepless nights, if I let it.
Each August, I walk around stores like Target, Barnes & Nobles, and Staples reinventing the walls of the classroom a million times in my mind.
At the same mulling over all my fears. Will I make it through another year? Will my principal support me? Will the parents of the students trust me? Will I bond with all the students? Will the classroom be conducive for learning? Will I be trusted as an educator by the people above me?
With each school year comes a large buffet of district mandated initiatives. While teachers spend their summers fueling their souls with love, joy, fun, and freedom, the district spends its summer evaluating data and reinventing the curriculum, and procedures, and teacher mandates. This is usually done with minimum teacher in-put because most teachers are too burnt out to even consider anything school related over the summer.
The moment I step into our celestial library, my freedom is slowly vacuumed out of me. We spend 5 days in professional development. Five days of worrying about planning and copying and setting up the classroom, while sitting in the hard wooden chair for hours re-learning how to be teacher. Five days of here’s everything new that you are now responsible for, oh and by the way be sure to integrate every old and new idea that you just learned in this workshop into this year.
It is the most overwhelming period of the entire school year. If you can get through these five days, the rest of the year is cake. If you can manage to see through all the insanity and give yourself the space to make mistakes and compartmentalize, the rest of the year can be a fun ride. If I can pause and remind myself that all these initiatives are fear-based, I am free to be the teacher that I have become. One that loves to laugh at the fact that one of my boys hid under my desk for 15 minutes before I noticed. One who is visited by the exact students whom I thought I failed. One who loves that moment when a student bursts into spontaneous dance during a poetry performance. You see there is no one in our business telling us we trust you to grow kids cognitively and morally. It’s always “we didn’t do this well, therefore we have a new initiative to do it better”.
What if I was trusted to come into the school without someone who hasn’t been in the classroom for years telling me the better way to do things? What if I was given the freedom to plan as I saw fit–like a professional? What if I was given time without days and days filled with new trainings and mandated development? What if schools spent this time building a positive community as teachers and administrators?
A girl can dream.
Then, like a blink of an eye, September comes and I long for Autumn. It’s gleaming winds that gently brush the leaves off the trees. It’s vital reminder that we’re all part of a cycle. The apple festivals, pumpkin carving parties, kids dressed in Halloween costumes, and me in the classroom building relationships. The classroom filled with voices, laughter, wonder, resolutions, and inquiry.
I remember why. Why I endure that week of intense, overwhelming anxiety. I love it; I love the experience that we get to share–my students and I. It’s ours only, there will never be anyone, except us who will remember the day Keshon got those fly black-rimmed glasses and started writing his persuasive essay.