To Teachers on the Last Night of Summer

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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.

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16 Responses to To Teachers on the Last Night of Summer

  1. Liz says:

    You are a brace dear Soul . Blessings

  2. Gail Matthews says:

    Your students are so blessed.

  3. Linda Gunger says:

    Thank you, my friend.

  4. David s says:

    Holy Spirit, come! Fill and use this holy vessel for your glory!

  5. Dawn Carpenter says:

    Heather, tomorrow is my last day of summer and I can’t tell you how moved I was reading your words! Thank you for reminding me of joy! Love you sister and may your year be blessed beyond measure!

  6. Valerie says:

    Yes!!! Thank you for your words of encouragement! I too am a teacher and dreading the summer’s end, but my calling is to teach! Thank you for the reminder! Praise be to God! So go fellow teachers in Christ and be the Light that shines in the darkness for His great Name!!

  7. I love your so very real reflections. You expressed what all teachers feel, that self-doubt and questioning if we are good enough. I begin year 30 next week, and I still feel all that you mentioned. Have a wonderful year, and know that with the heart you put into teaching, your students are the winners. The perfectly organized and decorated classroom can be a very cold place depending on the teacher. Yours will never be.

  8. dariancox says:

    Thanks for the reminder! I’ve been sad all day about summer’s end.

  9. As a full-time teacher, I lived every single summer as you described. And although I have been teaching part-time these past five years, I still “don’t wanna” come August. You are a teacher of the heart, though, and you make the difference in so many lives. Your time will come when you no longer “haftta,” and there will be sadness in that, too. I wish you a school year full of inspiration and blessings. 🙂

  10. Darla says:

    I taught for 36 years and have been retired for 7 years….boy, does this bring back memories!! I think I was as nervous, if not more so, than the students were on the first day of school….praying for all teachers and students as this new year is about to start.

  11. Pingback: [BLOCKED BY STBV] To Teachers on your last week of freedom! | We Were Meant to be Teachers!

  12. This was so me for over 40 years. I truly do miss it. You’re being used by our Lord, dear lady.

  13. Cassidy Lee says:

    *slow clap* Thank you for this word of encouragement!

  14. Lisa Rees says:

    Thank you, Heather, for walking with me through the anxiety that I feel every year…not just at the beginning of the year, but, oftentimes, throughout. You have successfully shifted my focus to the “big picture”, the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of my students. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Have a blessed year!

  15. Karen says:

    This brought me to tears. Thank you so much. Your words are truly encouraging. May we shine His light this school year!

  16. Steve Brown says:

    I am getting ready to start my 30th year teaching 7th grade math. As a whole, rarely do I reret my students learning nor my teaching. However, I always regret my personal accomplishments completed during my summer break. I always have a long list of things to complete during summer break. Some of these tasks, I have been put off all year.

    On the top of my list this summer, was to clean and organize my garage. The funny thing, I was able to clean and organize my 82 year old parents garage. I am convensed that this was one of my mothers summer tasks, whom is a retired teacher. A task, I’m sure she had failed to accomplish for some 40 years.

    I remember thinking, my garage will be easier, Because I would not have to deal with my mom and dad I love my folks, but, both of them think the others stuff is junk, and their own stuff, a treasure to be saved.

    Last week, I needed something in which I knew was in that garage. Didn’t I clean it, and locate the item needed? No, you guessed it, i went to the store and purchased another.

    Well, back to work tomorrow. . I’m looking my garage with things piled up to the ceiling, with barely enough room for my car. Perhaps, if I work now, working all evening and into the night, it still can be accomplished. Sure! There is always next summer!

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