It’s almost midnight. Preplanning begins tomorrow.
And I don’t wanna.
Summer has been glorious. Filled with unexpected wandering and brilliant laughter. I don’t want it to end but it fades as quickly as the sun slipping beyond the horizon.
Every year it seems to be the same story. The night before I go back to work, I live in denial that the alarm will begin again after it’s summer hiatus.
Tomorrow will come.
Summer always begins with plans of formulating new organizational strategies and influential books to read and stronger lessons to consider. I think to myself every first week of June: This will be the summer I go into school ready!
Prepared for better discipline. Prepared for all my students. Prepared for my yearly focused theme. Prepared for clearer strategies.
Really? I just want to be prepared.
And every August? I feel inadequate. I stare into the new school year feeling like a girl scout without all her badges. What happens if I get lost?
And this year? I feel like a girl scout without her badges, her hunting knife, and her fire starter kit.
How will I survive?
What if I told you I still have to finish reading a book I assigned for summer reading? What if I said I haven’t figured out which novels I will be teaching this year? What if I whispered I haven’t scoured Pinterest for all the best new teacher ideas?
If you’re not a teacher, maybe those question don’t illicit a single stress bubble. But if you are a teacher? You know the kind of stomach-clenching tension this might cause.
The anxiety has begun.
A million different things will run through my head over the next week of preplanning.
These are just tonight’s scattered ashes:
- How do I want to change the English III syllabus?
- I need to buy the supplies for the icebreakers. What is my icebreaker?
- I have to remember to ask the bookkeeper to renew the NHS membership.
- Don’t forget to review my roster and make copies.
- The emergency substitute plans need to be in the office before Friday.
- The new bell schedules have to be retyped and printed.
- I have to write the joint lesson plans for the high school summer reading novel.
- The lessons for the first couple of weeks will have to be penciled out.
- The new homework policy must be tweaked and finalized.
- Make sure to run by Office Depot on my way home to buy more black border to match the bulletin boards already in place.
- Candy still needs to be purchased.
- Expo markers! I can’t forget to buy those! Wait. I wonder if I asked the office for them in last year’s order?
- Are there any new school rules I will have to be aware of?
- Gah! Cell phones! A teacher’s discipline nightmare to be sure.
- Ella still needs a few pair of shorts and Caleb will have to have a first day of school outfit.
- When did I last get to the grocery store?
- I can’t forget to bring the classroom plants back in the morning.
And oh. my. goodness! Can I just go to sleep!?!?
This will be my 15th year in the classroom. A mile-marker to be sure. And yet?
There is not a single first day of school that my stomach isn’t tied into knots. Jitters and nerves clenching my insides tight.
Will my students like me? Will I like them?
Am I going to be able to teach them all they need to know? Or will I be lazy and slack off some days? Will I be what they need me to be?
The root of all my worries? Of my feet-dragging-not-ready-to-go-back?
Fear of the time my job will take away from my family. Fear of the hard, hard work. Fear not being enough. Fear of wanting more for my students than they want for themselves. Fear of the days I will fail. Fear of the days when students will fail me. Fear of the heartbreak teaching brings.
But fear never breeds success.
So tonight? Tonight, I resolve to cast away the spirit of fear. Because fear lives in the dark, and I want to be in the Light of the One who called me to teach.
Because this calling we have? This collective role we play to edify and pour into the lives of others? This privilege we’ve been given to educate and bring knowledge to children?
It shines a light into the darkness.
And the dark? It wants to keep good teachers away from the classroom.
If our role, our calling, our job wasn’t so important? I don’t know that it would be so hard. The same is true for all jobs-all hard work in our country.
The important is difficult. It is an upward climb.
And it’s worth it.
It’s worth letting go of the fear and saying yes to another year of difficult days. It’s worth the hours awake, dreaming of new ways to reach our students.
And it’s always worth the joy. Because friends? There is joy.
This afternoon, while taking my children bowling in a place I had never been, I heard a whispered “Mrs. Iseminger” in the background.
I turned to see two men, because that’s what they are now, headed in my direction. Two former students that had been just tiny 8th graders the first time I met them. Two bear hugs with lit-up faces giving me a faint glimpse of the 13-year-olds they used to be.
What delight to see them doing well.
I know parents and teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites. And I’m not sure I do. But there are those students with personalities that click with mine. Students who deeply impact me. Students that seem to dig themselves deep into the crevices of my teacher heart.
There, in the most random of places today, stood two students who have done just that. My heart filled with joy as I stood smiling back at them.
And I wonder tonight.
What if I had given in to fear and darkness the year I taught them?
Answer? I would have missed the joy today—joy that came almost a decade later.
That’s the thing about teaching. We fight the daily fear to witness the future.
The future is nourished in our classrooms.
And so tomorrow I will bring courage to fight the fear. Because I don’t want to miss the joy the future brings.
Tomorrow is a new year, so tonight I will kiss summer good-bye with a grin on my face.
Because I refuse to let fear win.