Slice of Life Tuesday:Back again in Room 202

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My footsteps echoed down the sixth grade hallway, so unnaturally silent and still in this last week of summer.  The door to my classroom, swollen with summer heat and humidity, would not give until I had leaned the entire weight of my body into opening it, as though it, too, was reluctant quite yet to let the peace and quiet of the summer go.

And then there it was…the room in which I spend the better part of ten months of every year.

The whiteboard had been washed clean of last-day-of-school messages of love and wishes for summer happiness.  The floor tiles gleamed, and I could see that the windows sparkled and shone.  Boxes of books and classroom supplies, neatly labeled and numbered in June and stacked exactly where I hoped they would eventually be restacked, were piled haphazardly on desk tops and the windowsill.   There was much to excavate, arrange, organize, figure out.   I stood in the middle of the middle of the room and closed my eyes…and the classroom came back to life:

I saw my kids working with their table groups, pens, papers, and books scattered here and there.  The room was always in motion, even when they are sitting still.

I heard their voices, chatting and laughing, whispering and murmuring, yelling out thoughts from time to time.  And I remembered the way these voices changed – uncertain at the beginning of the year, sure and confident by the time the year had ended.

I felt their presence: the way sixth graders never stop moving, the way they  leaned in when something was interesting, the way they tensed up and withdrew when they felt nervous, the way it was possible to feel their happiness and sense their hurt.  The openness and honesty of children, once you have earned their trust, is humbling.

When I opened my eyes again, I felt ready to put our room to rights.  I felt a bit of that early in the year fear lift – the fear that comes from knowing that for all the work I’ve done this summer, for all the work I’ve done every teaching year before, this year will feel as though I am starting all over again. Every year of teaching, really, feels like a brand new undertaking with risks and uncertainties ahead.  That’s both the joy and the challenge of teaching children – they do not come with manuals, they demand that we take the time to get to know what makes them tick and what they care about, they ask that we show them why they should care about the stuff we teach them.  Teaching often feels like a cross between performance art and air traffic control – it is exhausting and exhilarating work.  And you begin each new year feeling like a novice…because you are: you are new at knowing these particular children – individually and collectively.

So, I began opening up the boxes and moving around the furniture.  I felt the spirit of all my kids with me , as though they had decided to show up for one more group hug when I needed it the most…setting off on the incredible journey that is a school year.


17 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday:Back again in Room 202

  1. Showing up for one more group hug just when you needed it. I love that image. Cheers to another year of exhilaration and exhaustion! Your Smithlings will be so lucky to be in Room 202 on the incredible journey that will be their 6th grade year with you by their side.

  2. Your opening paragraph pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. You’re so eloquent with describing our life as a teacher. I appreciate how you allowed me to be there as your pushed your door open for another school year.

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this slice. These words stayed with me, “teaching is a cross between performance art and air traffic control.” So true. And so fun. I’m glad you are getting ready and feeling the tug back to teaching.

  4. I love the wisdom you’ve tucked into this post, Tara. Our students don’t “come with manuals,” and they deserve “that we take the time to get to know what makes them tick and what they care about.” Wishing you and your “Smithlings” a wonderful year!

  5. That process that wakes the room always seemed a part of me getting ready. I needed the silent work time, to think & think about the students, & the year on its way. Love “they do not come with manuals”-indeed, although there were times when I wished it were so. Have a wonderful year, Tara.

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