First Day Back

Returning to school as a student was always something of a mix. There was a little relief because, let’s face it: free time can get a little boring when you’re a teen. At the same time, there was the return to dreaded classes and dreaded teachers. There were classes we didn’t feel were worth our time (sometimes rightly, often not), but this was not the real problem.

The true problem was in the personnel: the teachers.

Though they were few, there were teachers gifted at turning interesting subject matter into drudgery because of their inability to share their enthusiasm or (probably more likely) their complete lack of enthusiasm. Such teachers often complained about the end of break, relied heavily on sarcasm in their interactions with students, and generally made no effort to hide the fact that they really didn’t want to be there, that they really didn’t enjoy working with us, and that, given any other options, they would choose just about any job over being a teacher. (This is certainly not to say that any teacher who complains about the end of a break or uses sarcasm is such a teacher.)

Those were the classes we endured when going back to school after a break. Was it best to have such a teacher first period, fourth period, or seventh? That was the only question. First period meant getting the dreaded class over with from the beginning. Seventh period meant capping a potentially great day with a sure disaster. Fourth was always good for me: not early enough to put me in a sour mood for the rest of the day and not late enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth before heading home.

I know there are still teachers like that. I suspect that if I snooped around a bit, I’d find one or two in my own school. Most teachers would say the same of their schools, I’m sure.

For such teachers, being in class is just as much a drudgery as it is for the students. Neither wants to be there; all are counting the minutes to the end of the class. Such teachers drag themselves out of bed every morning and breathe a sigh of relief when the day is done. And so the first day back for them is sheer torture. It’s a return to work.

Along the lines of the old adage, I’ve never worked a day in my life as long as I’ve been employed in education. Going back to school today was  a pleasure. Indeed, I couldn’t get to sleep for the excitement last night of trying some new lessons in old units. I walked down the hall this morning with an enormous smile on my face, and I greeted everyone — students, teachers, administrators — with a genuinely goofy cheerfulness. I told students that I’d missed them, that I’d been looking forward to returning, that I was a little bored without working with them.

Perhaps this helps explain why I have no behavior issues in my classroom beyond the talkative nature of thirteen-year-olds.

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