These First Few Days

The end of August slunk in, quiet and messy as a wet cat. Back in May, I made all of these grand plans for how to use my time off wisely. I was going to read every single book I planned on teaching this year. I was going to revamp the unit plans for the books I taught last year. I was going to refresh my knowledge of grammar. I was going to do all of this while working a summer job, and maintaining a respectable summer glow.

None of that happened. But does that mean my summer was a waste? No, indeed. Here’s what I did do: fell in love with whitewater rafting. Played tourist with my niece in Chicago, a city I’ve visited dozens of times already, but hadn’t seen through the eyes of a five-year-old since I was one. Published three pieces, a tiny sum, but approximately 300% more than I’ve published since college. Even without the plugging in the teacher time, I managed to wring good things out of the season.

But was I prepared to go back to school last week? No, not really. I pulled together every bit of wisdom I earned last year, and read a few books (including Harry K. Wong’s The First Days of School, which apparently every other teacher has read), and cobbled it together into a classroom management and lesson plan. I panicked a few times, because where last year felt like I was reinventing the wheel at every turn, my procedures and plans for this year felt routine. To me, at least. The new plan stirred up some comments from my students.

“Ms. B., you’re like, hardcore this year! Last year, you didn’t care about rules!”

“Last year,” I tell them honestly, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m learning too.”