After school yesterday I ran into a friend down the hall. She and I had chatted early in the morning, long before the kiddos arrived. By the time we saw each other at the end of the day we had prepared before school, taught, spent our break time in collaborative team meetings, and eaten lunch in the cafeteria with our students. It makes for a pretty non-stop day. She looked at me and said, “It feels like it’s been a week since I saw you this morning.”
These first few weeks of school wear me out. By the time I get home (and I don’t stay too late!) I am useless. When I realized yesterday that we had leftover pizza in the fridge it was like a gift from the universe. I didn’t have to figure out or make anything for dinner!
In some ways it seems absurd to me that I’m so wiped these first few weeks. There’s a lot I’m not doing yet that will be time-consuming later. But as I’ve thought about it I’ve realized two things that make this period require far more energy than most of the rest of the school year.
- We’re setting first impressions of everything. Everything I introduce – myself, our classroom library, math games, manipulatives, science experiments, etc. – I want the kids to love. I love these things (at least almost all of them) or I wouldn’t do/use them and I want the kids to be as excited as I am. I think I’m afraid that if I let my energy level fall I’ll send a message that something isn’t interesting or fun. I don’t want to inadvertently send that message.
- We don’t have any routines in place. Nothing runs by itself yet. Every time we head down the hall I need to tell them where to stop. Every time we start something new it is new. Nothing is old hat. That means I have to be on top of establishing the routines I want us to use. I’m spending a lot of energy reminding kids to push in their chairs, put materials back where they found them, and such. I know if I do this these things will become habit and the kids will take care of it. They’ll know where to stop in the hall, they’ll put things away, they’ll turn off the lights at the end of the day, they’ll stuff the Wednesday folders, they’ll stack the chairs for the custodians, and on and on. But right now I have to remember all of that and remind them to do it.
In a week or two this won’t be true any more. They’ll have the routines down. They’ll already know all our stuff (and either be excited or not). The year will be tough in other ways. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay awake past 7:30 pm when that’s true!