Can you feel it? All that promise and potential?
I know I can.
It’s currently 3:42 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’ve actually been awake since 1:37, but didn’t get out of bed until an hour later when I realized there was no hope of falling back asleep.
And this happens nearly every single year.
I would guess this is a common phenomenon among most teachers. The closer we get to the first day of school, the more excited we become. Now that I’m at the half way point in my career, “Day One,” which I feel should be capitalized as a proper noun, has taken on mythic status. Just like when I was a kid and couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve or when we were about to go on a family vacation, the approach of Day One fills me with joy and enthusiasm.
Day One goes beyond so much more than the first day of school when we get to meet our new students. Day One has become a metaphor for promise and potential. When we look out at those new faces who step over our thresholds and into our classrooms, teachers see young people who are full of that promise and brimming with potential, regardless of the age or grade level of our kids. We know that we have a critical role to play in the shaping of not only these young minds, but the future of our communities locally and our entire society nationally. Whether teaching them the basics such as how to hold a pencil or complex topics like literary analysis, we understand that we are helping them toward some greater good.
Beyond academics, though, there is another type of promise and potential that I love even more as a teacher. Day One represents one of the most important opportunities in life: the chance to cultivate relationships with another human being. Having taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Mathematics all at the high school level, I believe teaching isn’t so much about WHAT we teach than it is about HOW we teach. Are we empathetic? Are we authentic? Are we passionate? Those attributes matter much more than the content itself, because at the end of the day a good deal of what transpires inside the classroom and the school is how we connect with, care for, and respect others.
I’m not a good teacher because I am a super nerd who loves learning for its own sake, I’m a good teacher because I care about the kids and their future.
The truth is that those who are meant for this profession all excel in this regard. The best teachers are those who care the most and realize how much promise and potential Day One brings with it as each new school year begins. And they’re probably all just like me, lying awake in bed at odd hours of the morning, smiling at the ceiling at the thought of what Day One will be like this year.
Have a great first day back, everyone!