I’ve never been a fan of the first day of school. I’ve never been a fan of the first day of anything, really, be it camp, a job, college classes, online classes, or even classes I’m teaching. It’s not all bad, though – I do love the scent of brand new school supplies and being the center of attention for a few fleeting moments as my mom forces me to pose for awkward first day photos. (And it doesn’t matter that we’re in different states. Thanks a lot, Skype.)
Speaking of my mom, she’ll never let me forget that day when I came home from school (I think it was in third grade), threw my backpack across the room in a dramatic act of nine-year-old rebellion, collapsed in a heap on the floor and proclaimed that I hated school and was never going back.
Anyone who knows me realizes how laughable this is, considering I am and always have been school’s number one fan. If I could join some kind of cheerleading squad and do cartwheels celebrating school, I would. But I would not do them for the first day. I would do an anti-cartwheel, in fact. I’m not entirely sure what that would look like, but it would not be pleasant.
While a lot of people get excited being in new environments and meeting a bunch of new people all at once, I get fairly terrified. Not necessarily of the actual environments or people, but of what could be coming next in regards to them. That day in third grade, for example, I was seated next to this gross boy who picked his nose all day long and stuck his snot along the side of his desk, almost like he was leaving a trail in case he got lost coming back from the water fountain or something. His desk was next to my desk. I was not thrilled. And so my brain went, “Emergency! What if you’re stuck sitting by him ALL YEAR? What if you accidentally touch his snot and get some kind of snot-related infection and DIE? What if all the other kids think it’s YOUR snot and don’t talk to you EVER AGAIN?”
I’d make myself so nervous about the future of the snot (and the future of everything else) that I’d wreck the day and come home horribly freaked out by things that had not actually happened yet, and probably never would.
Now that I’m older and wiser and know that I get like this when in new situations, I’m able to spot the warning signs and get a grip before things spiral out of control. Still, even as the teacher, there are always what-ifs that freak me out. Luckily, they’re not usually snot-related anymore (now I control the seating chart [insert evil laugh here]) and now, I’m motivated to deal with them. Setting my concerns aside and consciously deciding to wait to worry about them if/when they ever actually happen makes me a good role model for my students and a far less annoying person for my mother to deal with at the end of the day.
If you ever find yourself getting bogged down by a gross person (or a scary boss, terrible selection of food, ginormous textbook, man-eating syllabus, etc.) on your first day of something, try to take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes things appear like they could be a little scary. Sometimes they actually are scary (I think we all know that ginormous textbooks aren’t messing around), but a lot of the time they’re no big deal. By focusing so much on Snot Kid (who only sat by me for that first week, thank goodness), I missed a lot of opportunities to notice amazing things about third grade. But don’t worry – I was still doing cartwheels for it by the end of the year.