Local educator: Teachers worry, too

  • At a Pep Rally at John Stark Regional High School, students Sydney Story, Sarah Wagner, Victoria Rizzitano, Abigail Brandt, Avery Gorhan, Sara Medvetz, Megan Blanchette, Hannah Chartier and Haley Philibotte pose for a photo.

  • John Stark Peer Leaders at the Youth Empowerment Conference “Inspire Change” are pictured. (Front row) Hannah Champagne, Christian Barr, Anna Ishak, Sara Nikias, Jared Clancy and Harrison Purdue. (Back row) Cordell “CJ” Drabble and Avery Forrestall. SAU 24 student will attend their first day of the 2019-20 school year Wednesday. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 8/25/2019 7:01:12 PM

When I was asked to write a back-to-school article for the Monitor, it was suggested that I talk about things that I wished students and parents knew. And I’ve spent weeks thinking about what would be most important to share. After drafting several lists, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just going to share a confession. So here it goes: the first day of school makes me nervous. Yes, nervous like I’ve been having nightmares since the beginning-of-August-nervous. I’m so nervous that I’m probably not going to sleep well the night before school starts. And my angst probably won’t subside until October once I’ve learned my students’ names and begun to get to know them.

I’m nervous because I have high expectations for this year and I’m unwilling to settle for anything less than my best work. I’m nervous because I’m working on building supportive learning environments and relationships, and those take trust and time. And I just want to get the first day right because strong foundations matter. I want my students to know that I’m nervous because I care about them right now and I worry about their futures. As I review the names on my roster, I become curious about who they are – and who they will become.

I want my students to know that I will lose sleep over a few, some, or all of them this year. I worry about who needs more help or attention. I am always asking myself if I am doing enough. I worry that I won’t figure some of them out. Every one of them has their own story. Sometimes I get the right chapter at the right time and other times I’m left with the conclusion when what I really need is the introduction. I will notice when they are overtired, hungry or anxious. Sometimes I won’t notice right away and then I’ll feel guilty because I remember that high school break-ups hurt, the college application process is stressful, and figuring out who you want to be is hard.

I want my students to know that they teach me so much. Sometimes their lessons are hard and come with heartache. I have learned to be patient and generous with my time. They have shown me creativity and ingenuity, loyalty and integrity. Dakota taught me to open my heart to others. Brooke modeled resilience and Jake reminded me that I can always choose my attitude. Cooper showed me the importance of focus and determination. Johannes taught me how to face loss with honesty and grace.

I want my students to know that I don’t forget them. And I’m nervous because my new students will become dear to me and I know that in the future we will lose track of each other. I often wonder about them and where they end up. Their happy endings fill my heart and their tragedies break it. Every student has helped me to become a better teacher who is more prepared for my future students. When I look out upon those new faces on the first day, there are hundreds and hundreds of students from my past behind me, cheering me on, reminding me of my mistakes and successes, and pushing me to give my best to this year’s group of kids. I will think of Chloe, who got married this summer; Stevie, who delivered his son in a bathtub and eventually went on to become a mechanical engineer; and Mackenzie, who is setting up her second grade classroom. I’ll think about Ben and if he is still writing. And I’ll remember Isaac and wonder about what happened to him after he transferred.

I want my students to know that I am nervous because I care. In a few short weeks the names on my roster will take on depth and dimension. They will become real people who mean something to me. They will challenge me. They will grow into versions of themselves that I didn’t expect. They will amaze and impress me. They will surprise me. They will worry me. They will lift me up when I need it. They will remind me of Jason, Bobby, and Courtney; of Rachel, Rayna, and Dylan. They will occupy my heart for the year – and for the rest of my life.

Maureen Colby works for the English department at John Stark Regional High School.

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