An Open Letter to My August Self
Dear Beginning-of-the-School-Year Ms. Marshbank,
First and foremost, chill out.
Take it from a girl who knows: your kids are going to be amazing, your administration will be supportive, and your coworkers are nothing short of inspirational. Your year is going to be messy, delightful, fast, exciting, and full of numerous gross illnesses (you don’t even realize how sick you’re about to get).
Trust me, it’s worth it.
Furthermore, calm down about spending money on your classroom. Seriously. Go on a walk. Pet your dogs. Hug all of the money in your wallet and have a moment. Everything is going to be fine. Your kids don’t care that you don’t have posters on your walls or that your bookcase is only a quarter of the way filled with books. (Spoiler: your bookcase is only halfway filled with books now and the world has yet to end.) At the core of everything, you are a teacher and your job is to teach. This doesn’t require hardly any money or resources that the school doesn’t already provide. Side note, you are at a kick butt school that can provide you those resources. You don’t need to buy a $60+ Erin Condren monogrammed, flower printed, rose gold bound, with the extra sticker package lesson planner to lesson plan well. Your school provided Macbook doesn’t need a pastel pink case, your plain ol’ coffee mug does the job fine, and you can DIY a lot of cool teacher-y containers for classroom use. Teach your kids solid content with a smile, and your students will mostly be okay with everything else going on in your classroom.
Remember to laugh. These kids are hilarious. The best days of teaching you’ll ever have are not the days where you really buckled down on classroom management, demanding silence or death. It was the days where you pointed out that you made a really bad typo on their assignment or talked about how you’re renaming your dog Pukey rather than Pokey because that’s just the kind of morning you had--those were the days that you went home happy about. Let them into those small moments of your life, so that they’ll let you into theirs. Relationships come first in your classroom, and relationships are built on laughter.
Always over plan. Kids with free time are bored and grumpy. Don’t blame them--you’re grumpy when you’re bored, too. Constantly fill their time in your classroom with quality learning. They will come to know that you have high expectations for them and that the learning doesn’t stop simply because they completed an assignment. Don’t go easy on them. They are capable people.
Your emotions will be mirrored in their attitudes. If you have decided the lesson didn’t go well before the lesson is over, then you might as well give up right then. If you’ve decided that you are excited to be giving them a quiz because you made it on Schoology and you’re pretty gosh darn sure you’ve set all the settings correctly for once, they are way more excited to take that quiz. They’ll congratulate you on setting up the Question Review page correctly and high five you that because you only made one typo. Your students are joyful people. They want to have a good time coming into your classroom, but there isn’t a world where they can outrun your own bad mood.
Let yourself be fascinated by the great things these kids make! Blogs that calculate the actual amount of decibels a Skyrim shout would be in real-life. Short stories that address the issue of suicide in elderly communities. Horror movie film trailers that give you chills. Powerful personal essays that throw you into an existential pit of despair and consideration. Persuasive research essays that force you to consider viewpoints you once were biased against. Fantastic games about novels that you should definitely let them play.
Every single student who steps foot in your classroom is going to make a difference somewhere at sometime. These ninth graders are talented, funny, and just plain awesome. Every moment they get on your nerves, show disrespect, or grumble about the prospect of another essay is outweighed a thousand times over by their brilliance. You’re going to love these kids in a way that you only suspected could exist. You are one lucky teacher. Cherish the time you get with these special kiddos, because nine months goes by quicker than you’d believe.
End-of-the-School-Year Ms. Marshbank