First Days

Ever since I first entered kindergarten, I have adored the first day of school.  Other children, my brother included, screamed and cried and clung to their mom’s skirts, despairing at thought of having to enter that classroom, but me?  I happily waved to mom and skipped jauntily into the classroom, eager to conquer the kindergarten arena.  I loved seeing all of the desks neatly arranged, the cubby holes ready and waiting to be filled, the decorations on the walls beckoning me closer, and of course, the Play-Doh.  I was hooked.  Each year, the night before the first day of school would come, and I would hardly be able to sleep for the excitement of wondering who would be in my class, where I would sit, what we would learn, what my teacher would be like, and I almost always woke up before I needed to, so anxious was I to start a new school year.  
New school years are new beginnings.  The grades from last year have been replaced with a clean slate (except within my mind, where I still can recall getting my first B in math, in fifth grade no less), the petty fights with friends have been healed by the summer months, and the promises of new experiences, new friends, and new knowledge shimmer in the morning sunlight. 

Now that I am on the other side of the desk, the excitement is still there, but it manifests itself differently.  I look forward to getting all of my office supplies in order: checking to see which pens still glide smoothly over the page and which just scratch and must be discarded; organizing my many sizes of Post-its; filing away last year’s handouts; making out the week’s to do list and writing in special events on my calendar, etc. etc.  I look forward to meeting a new group of freshmen, welcoming them into the world of college.  I look forward to exposing them to new ideas and new experiences, and I hope that in the midst of all the writing, they will have some fun, too.  I arrive at school early, to prepare myself and to pray for the students I will meet, and the excitement I feel is accompanied by another feeling:  fear.  My stomach does somersaults on that first day, as I think about all the things that could go wrong (me, the eternal pessimist): finding typos in my syllabus or going to the wrong classroom or completely butchering a student’s name (I’ve checked my rosters, and there are some names I have no hope of pronouncing correctly).  What if I sound like a complete idiot?  What if they recognize me for the impostor I often feel that I am?  What if they’re all smarter than I am?  What if I completely botch the whole semester and my students learn nothing?

But when I am tempted to just crumble onto my desk, consumed by these fears, I remember the phrase that has comforted me countless times before: worrying robs me of my joy and God of His glory.  If I focus on all of the these petty insecurities, that means I am not focusing on the One who looks at me and sees His daughter, the one He has fearfully and wonderfully made.  If I dwell on these fears, I give them power, and the only One who truly has power holds the world within His hands and will not let me go.  I am reminded of the words of David in Psalm 27:1:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?”  Of whom (or what!), indeed? 

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek Him in His temple.”  Psalm 27:4

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3 thoughts on “First Days

  1. Wow, I loved reading this. What a unique entry, from a professor’s perspective. Renee is a teaching assistant at Boston this year, and I’m doing the high school student teaching thing, so sounds like we’ll all have some fun teaching stores to tell. 😉

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  2. i said “syllabuses” on my first day.ackh. i did correct myself, “syllabi” right after, but there was still a little snickering. but i was laughing too, so i guess it was ok? hopefully my class doesn’t think i’m dumb!

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  3. the phd has crossed my mind…i’d have to get my master’s first though (i think?) because the MFA is a terminal degree, so i was thinking of getting my masters then seeing whats going on in my life at the time…but the phd sounds scary to me. the masters sounds completely doable, but the whole phd and thesis and such…scary. are you going after your phd right now?

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