It’s the time of year when teachers get together and ask the age old question, “are you ready to be back?” The question always comes with a variety of answers that always end with something along the lines of “I suppose I better be.” The point of today’s blog is really just to let those reading know that it is OK to feel anxiety. I don’t remember feeling real anxiety when I was a young teacher. I suppose I did, but I didn’t know what it was. I now recognize it all too easily. To be honest, the start of the school year (marching band camp for me) comes at me like a giant freight train these days. I don’t sleep very well, I have a hard time concentrating on anything, my stomach is upset and I am certain that I am not very much fun to be around.
I have come to both hate and embrace the anxiety. On one level I don’t like the angst that I feel this time of year. I would love to be able to have a restful night without worrying about drill books and broken sousaphones. But, I have also come to recognize that most outstanding teachers surely use their anxiety to get things done. In my case at least, the anxiety comes from the hope that I can make the learning experience new and better for my students this year. 24 years of teaching have shown that I can accomplish the tasks required for the job, but that knowledge doesn’t do anything to ease the anxiety. I really do want this year to be different for my students; I want it to be better. I believe that my anxiety actually comes from my fear that things will just stay the same.
I have no great advice to offer on how to reduce anxiety. If I knew I would be engaging in a remedy right now. All I hope to share is to do what you can to embrace your anxiety and recognize that it is natural as we go back to school and hope to make our schools better. If you are a young teacher, know that even the veterans are anxious about the year ahead. Teaching is a job that has very few real endings attached to it; one class graduates and new students show up to be taught. If you are a veteran teacher feeling more anxious than ever before, I’m right there with you. This profession isn’t getting any easier. Don’t let the anxiety and tasks at hand get overwhelming. Look to improve the world for as many kids as you can each day and you will be making a huge difference in your school. Be willing to share your anxiousness with your students, they are feeling it as well.
I have started reading lots of blogs lately and I’m always wary of the writers who seem to have it all put together and have all of the answers. I am wary of anyone who is convinced that what worked yesterday will surely work again tomorrow. I hope that by sharing the nerves that are shaking me to the core this week I can find some others who I can commiserate with. I’m a band director, so if band camp goes badly it’s not life and death, no one will be scarred for life (let’s hope), and yet it’s important that we get it right. I want this year to be transformational for my students and I suppose it’s OK to be a little anxious until that happens.