Growing up, I always dreaded the first day of school.
Insecure, short, and stout, all I wanted was to feel safe and have a teacher who believed in me. In retrospect, this was a tall order for any teacher on the first day of school – but it is one I tried to fill as I entered my sixth first day of school as Mr. Vega, English/Language Arts teacher.
The feelings of anxiety and excitement any person experiences on the first day of school never go away for me. I dread that the lessons and procedures that worked so well with my group last year might crumble under the different expectations of a new set of 13-year-olds.
I worry that the huge growth numbers my students achieved in reading and standardized tests last year (higher than three quarters of their peers) were largely due to luck. More important than worries about performance reviews, the stress of my job comes from the sixty lives I will hold in my hands this year and the impression I have to make on day one.
The excitement of the first day, however, always outweighs the anxiety. I’m excited to meet a new set of students, and hope they understand that – despite the harmful stereotypes that plague students in the neighborhood where I teach – I believe they can achieve anything.
I'm ready to begin the process where they try, fail, and try again as I guide them through standards mastery and reading growth. I'm prepared to take ownership when my students fail and, through careful reflection, make the adjustments and try again a different way until they learn.
I cannot wait to see the looks in their eyes in June when I tell them how much they have grown in reading. I look forward to those moments when, despite being the model of professionalism in the room, I laugh uncontrollably when one of them makes a hilarious (albeit inappropriate) joke.
I know my school has everything in place to educate and inspire our students. Now it is up to me to be the change I want to see in the world. But first, I have to finish decorating the classroom.