After the First Day Fades

Summer 2005 - Moving into my 1st Grade classroom
My parents asked for this Photo Op for old times sake in the midst of moving in.

After literally a lifetime preparing and dreaming of my own classroom, the highly anticipated first day of school had finally arrived. I had planned, prepped and romanticized about how perfectly executed our storybook first day would go! All those starry- eyed childhood playdates filled with pretend curriculum and makeshift summer classrooms on front porches; with stuffed animals,  had not prepared me for real students who acted their age, with real tears, real potty accidents, and oh no...who gave them scissors on the first day of school?!

This is a picture from my second year teaching in 2006. This class was very special to me as they played the hand bells in our wedding when I came down the aisle. 

Somehow in all my dreaming, it had not included a precious, albeit too curious, first grade boy experimenting with his brand new school supplies - scissors - on his neighbor's beautiful hair! College did not prepare me for that phone call. My degree did not teach me that young children can mistake an Elmer's glue stick for a Push Pop Lollipop and that said teacher would be the one helping get glue out of their teeth in the midst of wiping tears, bottoms and noses while consoling the homesick, the happy and the hog wild  on the first day of school. Oh, and what did the principal think I was going to do with those super detailed, A+, professor approved, neatly printed lesson plans? Those went straight in the trash can after that first day!

My lesson plans did not account for the scared parents who were nervous to hand their most precious treasure over to a brand new teacher. No practicum experience taught me how to manage the end of the day dismissal and a little boy's bathroom emergency where he would not exit to restroom  and I had 25 six year olds to get to their busses by myself.  My schema had no prior knowledge of the parents who seemed to be so uninterested in their child's wellbeing little lone their education. College did not  prepare me for the tears streaming down a homesick child's face who found comfort under her desk and would not come out. I wanted to join her and I'm certain that after school when the classroom was empty (much like my energy reserves) it seemed like a perfectly good option to me, as well! To me, the hardest part of the first day of school was the realization that I had to get up and do it  all over again the next day!!

That day in late August,  no textbook, student teaching, or years of dreaming could prepare this girl for - the first day-  in MY own classroom several years ago.  Truth be told, I cried just like the children and their parents that first day of school, not under my desk, but after school across the hall to Betsey,  who became my mentor and "framily" (A friend who is like family). You see this friendship was solidified when the above mentioned little boy needed assistance in the bathroom and 25 other students needed to hold my hand to get to the bus. At this moment, I sure wished there had been about 10 other teachers' names on the classroom door, but alas, there was only mine! I called for assistance across my outdoor portable classroom walkway to Betsey who had her own classroom of new first graders. The difference was she had several years of experience and a student teacher. She came to my rescue that day and many, many, others since. She gave me so much grace that first year (as did the parents) and I truly did, as they say, "Fake it until you make it" and believed myself into being a REAL teacher with REAL students. The truth is where experience was lacking love bridged the gap. I loved those children. I loved their families. And, most days, I loved my job teaching them.

So on this dark, rainy, third day of school in our district, I say to parents and teachers alike, WE CAN DO THIS!  Even now,  the first day of school usually throws a curve ball or two in my preschool classroom or with my own children as I take them off to their new classrooms! Now I get to be the scared mom who is afraid to let go!

However, over the years, thankfully  I have realized that it isn't just my name on the class assignments or hanging from the door. I have also realized that I am not sending my own children "off into the world" when I feel anxious about letting them go embark on a new year.  So where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He is the author and perfecter of plans and His purposes are my guide.  I think he has a pretty big sense of humor, as He and I walk through some of the very unpredictable scenarios that young children give us!  God, the creator of the all things, cares about the details. He cares about the first days, the last days and each one in-between. He has gone before us to prepare the way. It is our job to recognize the strength we have as Christians because Christ, the great I Am, lives in us! His power is in us.

This morning at 4:00 AM when sleep would not come, the rain did. I started thinking of all the teachers, children and parents waking up to this rainy third day of school in our district. I thought about how just enough time has passed from the first day of school to realize now on day three, that there are 177 more wake ups, rush out the door and hit the ground running hard-all-day until next Summer. For parents like me, the hot breakfasts stopped yesterday for my kids and the cereal made a grand entrance this morning! The newness has already started to fade and the routine is forming.

 I have learned quite a few things over the years as a teacher and as a parent.  I am thankful to realize that these take aways apply to both:

  1. There is so much that I do not know but God has equipped me with what I need today.
  2. Love can bridge gaps, when years of experience lack. You have to LOVE them before you can TEACH them!
  3. There will be curve balls! So put on your Catcher's Mitt and don't be surprised when it comes!
  4.  Never say never.
  5.  Be prepared for future funny stories to be born out of First Day experiences....                                                                         Please note, it will not be funny on the first day, haha!

What does all of this mean for you? Teacher or not, whether you have children or you yourself are back to school or starting a new job, first days come with an array of emotion. They can be exciting, unpredictable, filled with nerves, anticipation and jitters! But, usually our adrenaline carries us through the rollercoaster of feelings that fill that first day. However, it's day 2, day 3, day 53, and so on, that in all honesty ARE so much more difficult than the first. When anticipation and adrenaline have fleeted, and we are left with facing the repetition of tomorrow,  I pray that God purposes the path before you and faith carries you through the realness of routine.

                       A little glimpse of my first two years teaching 1st grade....

 I loved these children and they learned to love me back! Together, we learned a lot! They are young adults preparing to head off to college and beyond - which makes me feel so unbelievably old.

Before we were engaged and long before we were married, Rob would come and read to my classes.

The most amazing volunteer and friend a girl could ask for, Ms. Donna!

My 2nd year teaching 1st grade. My husband, Rob, proposed to me this school year. These precious children were in our wedding. They played "Cannon in D" as I came down the aisle. I will always and forever be grateful to our music teacher at that school, my friend, Michelle Funderburk.