being a teacher, being me, new year, reflection

I Am Afraid

image from etsy

I have been to my new classroom twice this summer.  Twice.  This coming from the queen of being in the classroom over the summer.  So while I could chalk up my lack of visits up to the fact that I have been super sick for the past 8 days, or that I have moved to a new house, that I am further away, or that I having too much fun with my kids (which I kind of am), none of those reasons would be true.  The real reason is that I don’t know what to do there.  I am not sure where to start.  I can’t get the vibe of my room and I don’t know where to start.

So imagine how my incoming 7th grade students will feel?

Yet, the fact that I am recognizing this leaves me hope.  That means that those unfamiliar cabinets, filled with books I am not sure what to do with, has my attention.  That the desks (urgh desks) will need to be rearranged somehow.  That my own 3 teacher desks can be downsized.  That I can unpack my 100’s of books onto my new bookshelves.  That I can go garage saleing for more shelves because 3 bookshelves will not contain my collection of books.

And yet, that’s not really it either.  It is not the things that are stopping me.  It is the newness.  It is the unknown.  It is the feeling of being in over my head not sure where I can rest my feet, and yes, I am afraid.  I knew how to do elementary.  I knew how to do elementary well.  I knew what to do with 9 and 10 year olds.  But 12 and 13 year olds?  Yup, they terrify me .  And even though I am okay with that, there is just so much new that I don’t quite know where to begin.  As a 6th year teacher you would think I would remember what it feels like to be a new teacher, apparently I don’t.

So I will allow myself to be terrified a few days more.  I will allow my mind to procrastinate planning for a new year a few more days.  I will pretend that my heart doesn’t itch to unleash all of my books and dreams onto my new room.  I will pretend that my thoughts aren’t starting to think of the new adventures ahead.  I will pretend I did not just order new books specifically with our first unit in mind.  I will confront my fear and then chip away at it.  I will take my own advice and plant a seed of change.  I will allow myself baby-steps into the room, into the change, into the new me that doesn’t seem to have an identity anymore.  No longer a 5th grade teacher, no longer me.  I will continue to be afraid but I will start to reach for hope.  I will reach for the new me that really is just me but changed.  That really is me but just with a new title.

I will allow myself to be afraid but I will not let it stop me anymore.  The clock is ticking, the days are slipping, and my new students are waiting.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.



19 thoughts on “I Am Afraid”

  1. Change is hard,
    Change is inevitable,
    Change is here, and it’s going to be great!
    Have faith!

  2. Oh, Pernille, how wonderful of a writer you are. I read this post and I feel such a connection to you. I have taught 5th grade for 15 years in the same district and will be switching to a new district and a new grade this fall. I think I am trying to mask my fear but it is there. I am so excited to follow along with your new journey.

  3. Pernille, while change is scary, I think it’s what we look for and seek to keep pushing ourselves to continue to grow, reflect, and become even better teachers than we are. It’s totally normal to question and feel uncertain, but I think you’ll find 7th grade so invigorating. I’ve taught 6th grade for 6 years (2nd grade for one yr – was not for me) and I know I love this age group. I love book talking with them, sharing the wonderful books that we read. Tonight I just finished FOUR, Veronica Roth’s collection of stories that focus on the character Four from the DIVERGENT series. And I sat here the whole time thinking…I can’t wait to talk to my kids about this book! I’ll be emailing several of them tomorrow because we are kindred reading souls.

    Enjoy the summer…it’s what renews us, but if you’re like me, you’re planning in your head and just take your own advice…don’t worry about the room and what it looks like. It’s the kid’s who are important and that you need to build community with…and I’m confident you will. Talk to you Wednesday!


  4. It’s okay to wonder. It’s okay to be scared. But it is more than okay to relax and replace school thoughts with vacation and family thoughts. (I’m still working on this and am also hoping that soon my dreams of school will end 🙂 !) You will be more than wonderful in 7th grade Pernille!

  5. I’m in a similar position, but am unbelievably excited because I asked for the change. I have taught 5th grade for the past 12 years; it was six years of 6th before that, and a variety before that (kindergarten, and even 11th-12th, and adults). I have six years before I retire. I wanted a change, a BIG one. I wanted that invigorating feeling of being new teacher again. So I asked to move to first. And I got it. There were a few moments of “What have I done?” but they evaporated and I have not been this excited for school to start in years. My 5th graders brought in first grade level books from home they didn’t want (and their moms weren’t saving for grandchildren) and I let them pick from the 1000s of titles in my room in swap. I saved many of my favorite titles to read with my grandchildren and hundreds went to the local library for their book sale. I’ve spent hundreds buying books for my new class–enough for them to taste titles from many series, and a pile that make me giggle or think for read alouds. I found some great puppets and games at garage sales. My husband helped haul all my bookshelves and other fun furniture home to be stained and painted. I just finished my welcome letter and had a friend, my daughter and d-I-l proof it for me. This is an adventure. I’ll be saying new things, reading new material, teaching a very different level of math, handling different kinds of issues. But, all students need the same thing from their teacher–unconditional love, respect and a great enthusiasm for learning and life. That works every time–every year–for every grade/subject. We can give them that, Pernille. And all will be well. As long as one knows the subject inside out and backwards-teaching is teaching is teaching. Let the fear slide away and embrace your new classroom and all it will bring. I predict you will love it–they will love you–and it shall be material for several blogs to come.

  6. It’s okay. You’re right to be hopeful. I have a pretty good feeling that you’re going to love seventh grade. 🙂 As far as room set-up goes; years ago, I was at a professional development meeting where the speaker basically suggested that getting the room “set” for the year should be joint effort. If we want the kids to feel welcome and feel part of it, then they need a say in how it’s arranged, decorated, etc. This speaker (and I wish I could remember who it was–it’s been at least 11 years ago!) talked about getting that yellow “under construction ” plastic tape/streamer stuff, the stuff they use on construction sites, and putting it around the door, across the front of the room, on walls that still need posters or visuals, all to get across the idea that the room was still “under construction.” So I did–at Lowe’s or Home Depot or somewhere. I set up some very basic, traditional things to begin, but part of my opening day thing with my classes was that we were going to arrange the room together in a way that would work for all of us. As I recall (cause admittedly, I haven’t done this lately), the kids really got into it. And last year at one point, I asked my sixth graders to propose a new seating arrangement to the room–and I got several design options. So there’s a thought, too.

  7. I went through this last year moving to 4th, and I will go through it again as I am looking for a job (class bubble). Once those kids come in the room and I start to know who they are, it is all good. It is a bit like stage fright, isn’t it? The nerves and the waiting before you walk on to perform are agonizing, but once you get onto the stage and begin it all slides into place. I wish you the best of luck with your new class.

  8. Unpack your books first and pull out your favorites…..the ones you want to read to your new class first. Focus on making your library corner the welcoming, beloved, comfortable place you want it to be for your new group of readers, writers, and learners…..and then the rest will come. I had an advisor during my Master’s program who “jump-started” me (when I was frozen with fear and anxiety) about my Action Research Project” tell me…..”Without change…..we have no hope. Change can be refreshing and rejuvenating. Embrace it.”
    Best wishes,

  9. I too am leaving a classroom and starting on a new journey. I’m saying goodbye to first grade after 14 glorious years and saying hello to a 3rd-5th grade building. Admins. Still not sure what grade to place me in. Not knowing where I am going adds to my fear. What’s that Zen saying “Leap and the net will appear”…I’m still in mid air! 😊

  10. That room is just waiting for you to fill it with your magic. And by magic, I mean incredibly hard work, dedication, honesty, vulnerability, reflection and love. Those lucky, lucky kiddos.

  11. Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter if they are 8/9 or 12/13 . They still need to be engaged and they still need to know you care. Do this and you’ll be fine.

  12. My daughter just finished 7th grade at your new school. From what I could see, there is a great group of teachers and administration there. You will do fine with 7th graders. They are all as nervous as you are because the school is new to them as well. Keep doing what you’ve been doing – get to know them as individuals, listen, and adjust as needed. Wishing you good luck!

  13. Pernille thank you for sharing this. I too am starting at a new school this year and have yet to move anything into my new office. Because I realize that once I do, the work must start. And that’s okay, I’m not ready just yet. I feel like when I start this new chapter that I am leaving the old, more comfortable, well read chapter behind. I realize that this is how change occurs but it doesn’t make it any easier. Maybe this new chapter will start with a bang or maybe not. Either way it won’t be because I didn’t jump in with both feet. I always enjoy your stories because they help me to better understand my own. Take care and best of luck. We can be scared together.

  14. I had that experience last year. What I did was call a teacher friend and ask for help. Actually I called two teacher friends–one who taught the same subject I was going to be teaching, and asked her a million questions about how she does things so I could start building a picture in my head of what I wanted to do in my classroom. The other teacher friend I just called and said I needed help fixing up my room (it was so empty and dirty and ugly! I needed someone who would give me a pep talk and knew how to whip it into shape). She helped me set up the classroom in a way that could be changed later, once the students came, but that made the room feel homey to me. …and once the room felt welcoming to ME, it was a lot easier for me to spend time in it and get excited about the work the kids and I would be doing.

  15. I’m having the same feelings right now and I’m not new to my school this year. It’s not even a new room. I just know that the way I set it up last year didn’t work, and now I’m feeling overwhelmed.

    Newness can be scary, but it will all work out. Middle schoolers are tough (I love them, have spent most of my career teaching them, but they are), but they need passionate, caring teachers who care about them. And just from reading your blog for a few months, it sounds to me like you’ll be great.

  16. Thank you for sharing your feelings! I’m moving from reading resource to my first classroom… and it’s first grade! Yikes! I hope to keep feeling less terrified as the summer winds down and I get inspiration from fellow teachers in my PLN. Best wishes for a wonderful year with 7th graders – they are a fun age!

  17. Thank you so much for this! It is only my second year of teaching, but I will have a whole new subject and grades to teach next year so I feel like I am starting all over again as well. It is encouraging to me to read your words and know it is okay to name this feeling as fear! Now we get to go conquer it. I wish you the best!

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