“It’s like this giant Monday.”
I’m walking to school with my roommate, Anna, on this clear Tuesday morning, the first day of second semester. “I mean, I’m always a little lost on Mondays, like I’ve forgotten how to teach. And this… this is way worse.”
This is a different “first day back” than any I’ve known before. In the past, this day has happened a week earlier, and I’ve picked up roughly where we left off before Christmas. Continue with those research projects, finish Othello, cope with half a dozen new students and brace ourselves for the end of the semester, only three weeks later.
Between finals and a 3-week Christmas Break, it’s been almost a month since we held any regular classes at BFA. Many of us have spent the last several days juggling the demands of jet lag and lesson planning, as we clean and copy and conference on the coming semester. We look forward to it, the teaching, but there are comparisons to riding bikes, references to rust and cobwebs to be swept away.
It reminds me of education classes, three years of preparation for this vocation. I spent days on projects, plans, techniques and theories, and nights lying awake, wondering if I really wanted this, after all. I became wary of teaching, considering it from the outside, pressing my nose to the glass and shivering at the ghosts I imagined inside. By the end of my Junior year, I felt called to complete my teaching program, but not necessarily confident that I’d ever teach again. Had the program ended with more theory, I might not have. But it ended, as the best vocational training does, with an apprenticeship, Student Teaching, the test of all teacher tests. I spent another week of planning, this time on the job, and felt the stress mount even higher. What was I doing here?
And then school started, and all the shadows were gone. In their place were the students, 150 of them, filling the classroom with questions, disasters, jokes, accents, passions and concerns. Everyone I met was one more reason that I loved this. There are kids here, I realized. How had I forgotten this, that it’s the students who make teaching not only worthwhile and important, but interesting and great fun?
My first class isn’t until fourth period. They pour in enthusiastically, finding seats and arguing and laughing, creatures of greetings and new haircuts and fingers cramped from having to write more than usual. We’re sitting in a circle now, since the new semester brings smaller class sections, and after a while they settle into their new seats. Several of my most energetic students from last semester have found their way into this new class, and I can already see them looking for loose ends to pull in this new setup. But it doesn’t matter today. For an instant, the room is quiet, and I look around the circle. The faces are familiar. Expectant, mischievous, creative–I know them now.
“Wow.” I’m surprised out of eloquence today. “It’s good to see you. I missed you. Truly.”
The talk is of home this week, as we come back to Kandern from the homes to which we’d scattered. For me, this has been a month of many homecomings, to Seattle and back here. And now another home, here among the people I’m delighted to know.