Don’t Expect to Be Inspired

image from chick lingo shop

I wanted to write something inspirational, gushing about the first days of school.  Talking about the magic of them, the sheer adrenaline rush that carries us forth as we start to change lives.  How our work is bigger than us and I can see the passion coming alive in the twinkle of my students’ eyes.    But the truth is, I am too exhausted.  My back hurts and so do my feet.  My brain is going in circles, sporadically coming up with something that may turn into something, and oh the to do list has taken on a life of its own.  So it is time for me to admit; I hate the first days of school.  In fact, I think I even hate the first week.

I hate not knowing the kids.  Sure, meeting them all for the first time is exciting, but not knowing their names upsets me.  Not knowing what makes them tick slows me down.  While I love hearing their expectations for the year and having them set the rules, I hate the process of it, because I want it to be in place already so we can move onto bigger things.  I hate not knowing which books they prefer to read or how to best support them.  I hate not knowing their handwriting or their writing voice.   Right now, my 118 students are mostly just names that I yell out while taking attendance trying to see if I remembered correctly.

I hate that they don’t know me.  We don’t have our world down.  I don’t have anyone telling me I have to read a book or telling me their latest funny story.  Instead they look at me, measure me up, trying to figure out who this crazy teacher is.  I am judged with every word that comes from my mouth. I am contemplated whatever I do.  The pressure can be nerve-wracking.

And yet, although I am ready to fast forward a month or even just a week, I see the seeds we have planted start to grow.  A kid asks me for a book recommendation and I find him one he likes.  Another shares a funny comment.  And tonight, one child emailed me for help.  We may not be a community yet.  We may not get each other.  They may not think I am funny ( like at all, 7th graders are a tough crowd!).  They may not know the names of my kids or even feel that I am their teacher.  But they do know I care.  They do know that I love reading and writing.  They do know that I am there.

So while the first week of school cannot end fast enough for me, I am a little bit in awe of the process that is happening with my kids.  The trust they are starting to place in me.  The small smiles.  The little moments as they open up a touch.  We are not there yet, in fact, we are not even close, but at least we have started our journey together.  At least we are on the road.  And still, can’t it just be the middle of February already?

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.

12 thoughts on “Don’t Expect to Be Inspired

  1. Thanks for your honesty. I love so much about my job, but sometimes, especially at the beginning of the year, it is exhausting! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone and to rejoice in the little moments where I see connections and relationships forming. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  2. I just finished day 10 of teaching first grade for the first time. I still don’t have my routines down. I thank the kids each day for their patience. They smile. I can’t wait for February, too, when I can look back and laugh (?) at my frazzled state.

  3. I very much agree. The first few weeks I often find myself disappointed and annoyed (which is not right). The students don’t know my routines and systems, they don’t get my sense of humor, they do things like they’ve always been done, not realizing that my classroom is different. Like you alluded to-add in our sleep cycles being out of whack and the overwhelming list of things to be done…Yikes! In fact, note what time I’m posting this… 🙂 I woke up at 2:30, tossed and turned until 4, got up and ready and here I am! This class is presenting some tough issues…cancer, a history of bullying (many parents have already contacted me relating horrible experiences their child has had with this group of kids), a child who has been labeled a kleptomaniac…I’ll stop now. This is turning into a personal journal.Sigh.

    • From one teacher to another, I hope and pray that you and your students can lean on each other and find joy together! Good luck this year!

  4. Thank you! I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight. My body hasn’t adjusted to these early mornings yet. I love my new class but I’m so ready to be done discussing routines and expectations.

  5. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling! So nice to know I’m not the only one! Love teaching so much, yet those first few weeks are so hard!

  6. A journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step, or something like that. That first step is lovely but oh so hard to take. I am already starting to love my kids, but it kills me that I don’t know them like last year’s class yet. So I work hard to find out little things. Thanks for sharing.

  7. You took the words right out of my mouth. I have never appreciated Sept or June. I don’t like the newness and repeating of procedures and I am so academically focused, I don’t like baby-sitting–which is what the last weeks turn into. I do have a cure for achy, hurting legs: wear sneakers. Every day. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dress code–just wear them. When I started teaching my legs ached badly once I got home. Hard floors. I switched to supportive running sneaks and have never felt it again. And I’m way older than you. 😉 I have arthritis in one knee–and that gives me a little trouble in the first days–but not much. Sneakers. Just do it.

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