The Night Before the First Day of School

I had received the phone call for the job offer while I was standing in the middle of Union Square.  I stepped up onto brick pavers, as if being higher would make it easier to hear the Principal’s voice.  Start in two weeks.  Middle of the year replacement leave.  If I careened my head just so, I could almost make out the outline of the building where I would start in ten days.  Yes, of course. Thank you for the opportunity. 

Ten days was just one day longer than I was going to be in Texas, visiting my boyfriend and his family for the holidays.  Ten days was just enough time to reread some Zora Neal Hurston, prepare lessons for 11th grade literature, and review (okay learn) the history of China. It was more than a week to dust off my undergraduate English Education degree and my newly minted masters in Educational Theater.  I was ready to start teaching New York City High School Students in English – and history. At least I was 50% prepared. 

The three hour flight gave me enough time to prepare my massive to do list.  The drive to Houston was long enough to finish Their Eyes Were Watching God.  There was enough time to pause to eat artichoke dip and discuss the first day of school outfit.  From there, it was off to Dallas, where I drilled my mother in law with countless teaching questions, to then begin phone sessions cramming ancient Chinese governments with my History-major father.  When the plane landed in Newark, ten days later, I was nowhere close to ready. 

I spent the entire night before, strewn across my almost built Ikea futon in my cousin’s apartment.  He graciously drew me a map of the path train, because the only thing I understood less than the Han Dynasty was the directional skills from Hoboken to Manhattan.  I tried to regain composure. I visualized a twenty-two years old professional, ready for her first independent classroom. To-do list in hand, she would confidently walk in her matching pencil skirt and turtleneck sweater, ready to meet her new students.  

And since memory is imperfect, we can chalk the rest of the first day of school memory up only this: there is such a thing as too much eye shadow, a chocolate chip cookie does not a lunch make, and don’t send a child to the nurse before finding out the school doesn’t have one.  

I have had fifteen more evenings anticipating the first day of school since I first became a teacher, but none have quite felt like tonight.  Perhaps it is because it is for a job I did not apply for. Starting Tuesday.  For two weeks, maybe more?  I didn’t need to look far to explore the location of my new position, I was already standing there, surrounded by legos and Goldfish crumbs. 

I was surrounded by parents all over the country, world… in the same position. 

Two days was enough time to transform our living room into an educational space. It was important to make sure everyone had their own desk to help with motor planning and sensory seeking.   It was just enough time to review the PEC system we needed to help our daughter transition between activities, create space for our almost five year old twins to run, and review (okay learn) how to create science experiments. Forty-eight hours was plenty of time to prepare our massive to do list.  Team Umizoomi was just long enough to multitask remote learning lessons for my ninth grade students, bedtime stories were just enough to mentally create a baking activity for the morning, and hundreds of viral social media posts from Pinterest-perfect parents would make up the rest. 

Here I am the night before, surrounded by three sleeping children (okay, one sleeping child and two wailing banshees) with an unidentifiable blue stain on our sheets.  Ice pop?  Lipgloss? Highlighter?  Surrounded by glue sticks and strips of paper for our morning meeting activity, I visualize the first day of school tomorrow. A tired, almost forty year old

Ready to shift her role from Mom to teacher.

Timed schedule in hand, she will confidently facilitate story time in her perfect pair of sweatpants and her favorite, stained 5P – sweatshirt, ready for her hardest class to date.  And as she sits criss cross applesauce, improving theater games with her co-teacher of 15 years, perhaps their shared degrees in Education will be enough to get through just one day of “Mommy and Daddy school.”  

I mean, we know a few things will be true at this school: they will learn kindness, have far too much candy, and when the inevitable bloody nose happens, there won’t be a nurse here either to send them to.  

Cards for Morning Roles: courtesy of Oliver (age 4 3/4)

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