A few years after I started teaching middle school, I walked across the south field on the first day of school. It was early, before students arrived, but my principal was there and she asked me, "Are you nervous?"
I was still fairly green as a teacher and attempted to sound seasoned. "Nervous, no, but I'm excited."
"Really?" My principal responded. "Oh, I still get nervous and I promised myself if I ever wasn't nervous for the first day, I should retire."
Almost a decade later, that principal has retired, but I imagine she's still nervous for all of us heading back to school tomorrow.
So, am I nervous? Yes, and I'm bracing for the year to come. I glance at the names on my class rosters. These students are strangers to me, and that is what I'm nervous for. That is the suspense that will keep my mind spinning with the preparations I still need to make to start the year. Because by the end of the week, those names will reveal faces and slowly, those faces will share their stories.
As the first day bleeds into the first week, month and semester, many of my 100 students will share bits and pieces of their lives with me and it is these stories that will keep me from falling asleep in the nights to come. We will make it through that first semester and we will work through to spring. Then these students will graduate and head off to high schools across the city. These students will fade away and they will take their stories with them.
That's one of the hardest things about being a teacher. I get this glimpse into so many lives but I so rarely get to hear how the stories end. Fortunately, I've had the summer to rest up, to reflect on the stories I've heard this past year, and to make room for new ones.
Tomorrow is the first day of school and I'm nervous. I'm nervous, excited, and anxious to hear the stories of this new school year.