Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The First Day (That I Didn't Go) Back

Today was a strange day. For the first time since I was three years old, I didn't go to school on the first day after Labour Day.

The nervous, excited feeling I've had for thirty straight years, butterflies in my tummy keeping sleep away the night before school starts left me alone last night.

All day, I eagerly devoured Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. Not only were friends and colleagues returning to school, but so were the tiny babies of many friends.

The first day of school holds so many emotions. As a student, I didn't love it. I was always overwhelmed by nerves and intimidated by new routines. I did, however, love the new school supplies. My favourites were fresh new binders, filled with crisp lined paper purchased at 19 cents a package and the occasional fancy set of pens or markers. From grade five all the way until my Bachelor of Education, I spent time during the first week decorating those binders, jazzing up my class schedule and making elaborate plans of how to avoid procrastinating, finally. The binders started off pretty, the schedules colour-coded and the procrastination always arrived.

As a teacher, the first day of school is awesome. Instead of snazzy new binders and hand coloured schedules, I have charts, tables, lists and plans on the Google Drive. Colour coding remains a necessity. I spend a lot of the summer planning for my new class and always over plan the first day. I have at least four times the amount of activities than I do time. Getting to actually see the names on my alphabetical (by first name) class list come to life as small humans is exciting. I remember how I felt as a student on the first day every year and do my best to calm nerves and make sure each and every student knows how happy I am to have them there.

The day always flies by. Huge amounts of paperwork magically appear. Very soon, it feels like you were never gone. The eight weeks of summer are a distant memory eight hours into a new school year.

My bladder starts its training process for retaining massive amounts of water until the moment that the children leave my sight.

By the end of the first day, my body knows that its holiday was over. The sleep lost the night before and the constant motion and attention. I drive home, one of those delirious car rides where you cannot remember a single detail from the moment you turn the ignition until you remove the keys. Attempting to get new information, like bus schedules, parent contact information and last minute changes to every schedule and routine sorted out, I inevitably decide to lay down on the couch to "rest my eyes". Four hours later, I wake up long enough to shove food down my gullet, tell Captain Handsome I'm way too tired to talk and head back to sleep.

Then, the learning adventure begins. Individuals who started out wary of one another slowly begin to merge into a community. I start to see lessons I have purposefully planned begin to pay off. I see lessons I painstakingly created fail magnificently. Students start to trust me and each other. Each morning, I am greeted with excited faces and each afternoon, there are at least a few people who don't want to leave.

No matter how chaotic and exhausting those first days are, they pass. My students and I become a team. We laugh, explore, discover, question and learn together. Sometimes we even cry together.

The first day of school always feels like a mixture of predictability and total freshness. I've been in a classroom on the first day for thirty straight years. I know that first day jitters wear off and real learning begins.

This morning, I didn't set an alarm clock. I let my body, not the chime that Captain Handsome hates on my phone, choose when to get me up. This morning, I smiled as I looked at the pictures and status updates shared by friends. I nearly cried when my teaching partner told me she missed our morning greeting. I felt wistful seeing photos of former students bravely traipsing off to new adventures.

I don't feel left out, though. Instead of returning to what has become a comfortable new start, I am in the process of a totally uncomfortable new start. Like the mix of emotions we all feel when starting something new, I'm reminded of the nerves and excitement I felt as a child starting each new school year. I have the time and freedom in a new city to explore some incredible opportunities.

Instead of spending the night before school staying up with butterflies in my stomach, I spent it in front of my computer, in the final stages of writing my first book. Sending the manuscript to my publisher in the middle of the night, I took a moment to realize that it's still a first day for me. It's just a little different than the last three decades of first days.

I don't know what this year will hold for me, but I know that I'm proud that I learned from EPCOTclass' motto last year of be brave. Instead of finding something comfortable, I've tried to find something totally different.

Who knows where I'll be this time next year. I certainly wouldn't be disappointed to be asleep on the couch, after an exhausting first day back in the classroom.


  1. Great read Shauna! Thanks for sharing, and yes I am headed to curl up on the couch!

  2. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this... you are an incredible writer- I can't wait to read the book!