Saturday, March 22, 2014

Slice of Life, March 22nd-- "My First Day of Teaching, Remembered..."

Our first day of teaching...a day we all remember, I'm sure. For me it was 8 years ago, but I can see every moment in high-definition detail. Allow me to recount a few of the highlights for your amusement.

6:00 a.m.-- I'm sitting in my '96 Honda Accord in the parking lot of the school. I'm the only one there, obviously. School doesn't start until 7:50, but I can't sleep because I'm so paranoid I'll OVERsleep and miss the first day. Plus, the first day of school nightmares are killing me. To escape, I just get up and go. At this particular moment, I've got my head against the steering wheel breathing deeply in the dark, sick to my stomach, with one thought rolling through my mind on repeat, "How did I talk this principal into believing I could actually TEACH?! I don't even know if I can teach!" I was so terrified by the thought of having my own classroom of real kids that I could hardly move. Needless to say, I did...

7:30 a.m.-- The parents and students start rolling in for the first day of school pictures with the new third grade teacher. The impostor complex kicks in again; I feel like they can all tell I have no idea what I'm doing. My panic is documented in pictures that I still have. The look on my face is priceless.

8:30 a.m. -- I'm reading them a book about first day jitters, and it's going well! We're building community! A victory! Then someone opens the door...another parent wanting one more picture. The momentum breaks. The doubt returns. I suppress a real urge to hide.

11:10 a.m. -- Someone from the office comes in to ask if we're going to come to lunch. We're 20 minutes late. I've been so worried about everything else that didn't realize my clock was running slow, and the time for lunch had come and gone. It's a nightmare come true. We make it just in time before the next shift of kids.

11:25 a.m. -- I shove food into my mouth behind my desk as the kids sit for a few moments after their lunch. It's all I've got time for. I feel like I'm going to throw up.

1:30ish p.m. -- A child beats me to it, and throws up on his desk. The cleaning staff is busy, so I repair the damage on my own; the gagging 8 year-olds wait on me in the hallway. I want to go home.

2:50 p.m. -- I put on a brave face, and go out to car pick-up line to wave goodbye to all my kids. I feel like I've lived a whole week in 8 hours. I'm exhausted, but I know I'm in the right place when I realize I can't wait to try again the next day. For the first time ever, I'm a real teacher and it feels amazing.

It was a first day for the books, that's for sure. In the end, I had a wonderful year despite some more growing getting the whole class lost in downtown Indianapolis on my first field trip.


Live and learn, right?

Truthfully, I wouldn't change a thing about that day. It's brought a lot of smiles to my face and the faces of others over the years. I like to tell new teachers in my building that they can't beat my first day flop! They usually feel better about their "terrible" first day after I tell them the above story.

After all, we can't be perfect all the time, but it doesn't mean we're not supposed to be here. It's just part of the journey.


  1. I'm one of those anomalies who can't remember a single detail of their first day of teaching. However, I can totally relate to your "imposter complex". I learned about something called the "Imposter Phenomenon" in college and it had my name written all over it. And those first day of school dreams...more like nightmares!

  2. I remember my terror the first day of school as a teacher. Another teacher who taught many of the same 8th graders I did (and whose first year was the year before) told me the kids thought I was scary and stern. I just remember thinking that I was more terrified than they were that first day.