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The Jitters

[Editor’s note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a third-year elementary school teacher in Queens in her first year as a classroom teacher. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where these posts originally appeared.]

Tuesday, Sept. 1

The past few mornings, I’ve been awake early, my mind buzzing with all the things I need to accomplish before school starts. Most of my tasks are mental — How many classroom jobs do I want to have? What will our morning routine look like? — and some of them are physical, like going to Staples to laminate my number line and gathering all the supplies I’ve accumulated and packed in around my apartment over the summer, like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the fall.

This morning, when the soon-to-be Mr. Brave asked why I was up so early, I told him it was because I was getting nervous. Mr. Brave served in the Army, and I asked him if he had ever been nervous in Iraq.

“No,” he said. “I just remembered my training. I had men underneath me who were scared, so I couldn’t be scared.”

There are those who like to draw the analogy that teaching is like going to war (you know, with teachers being on the “front lines” and all that), and so this morning I suited up in my panda slippers (because it sure feels like fall) and decided it’s the same for me: I’ll have students underneath me who are scared, so I can’t be scared. I just have to remember my training.

* * * * *

Monday, Sept. 7

I wonder if there’s a name for the condition in which one panics before the first day of school and finds oneself making endless return trips to Staples, forking over exorbitant amounts of cash for anything that might conceivably make the day go easier.

If there isn’t, I’d like to propose to name it after me.

I already bought two packs of punch-out letters, but foolishly abandoned them at school. With a limited amount of time left tomorrow to get my room ready, and with many, many letters that still need to be placed on my walls, I found myself at Staples tonight, buying two more packs so I could punch out the letters beforehand. (Sidebar: Those letters are the devil. Way harder to punch out than I thought they would be. Arranged in seemingly random order. And when they only give you one W in a pack, and you want to spell out “Look What We Did,” you’re doomed right from the start!) I sent Mr. Brave off to Best Buy to purchase a new printer, because ours is always on the fritz and I foresee the need to print out many things in the first few days of school, such as the letter to send parents that I haven’t written yet and therefore can’t ask for copies of.

I bought a huge pack of mechanical pencils (on sale) in case the kids don’t come in with pencils. I bought about 40 folders during the penny folder sale and am now contemplating asking Staples if they’ll let me trade colors, since I bought my folders in a rainbow and then realized I should buy them all in the color of our writing folders, since they’ll definitely wear out during the year and I’ll need new ones. Then I started worrying about all the things I didn’t see in my room: Where were all the dry erase markers? We’re being told constantly that we’re completely tapped out of money for supplies, so am I going to have to go back out tomorrow and buy tons of dry erase markers?

I have to say, last year, I was not this nervous about returning to school. And I’m 100 percent sure that if I were going back to the position I had last year, I would be cool as a cucumber right now, instead of panicking over my punch-out letters. Yes, yes, this year will be a grand new adventure, and yes, there’s even a possibility I might like being a classroom teacher, and yes, this experience will be good for me even if I don’t like it. But right now, I feel like every student in New York: I don’t want to go!