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.




  1. Pat: as usual, very well written. Your blog this time brought back many memories to me of my 37 years of teaching. And, the longer I taught, the more I realizedthat I did not know all the answers, and never would. In a sense, I think that this is good. When one begins to think that they do know all the answers, they become stale and very predictable.

    Keep up the good work; here’s hoping for a great school year for you and your students.


  2. I remember that feeling as a band director. The sleepless nights, constant worry, my head in constant high speed motion. As principal, it wasn’t any better. In fact, the past two years were actually a little worse. I had to hire 27 years over the past two years mostly due to our location(kind of like being in southern Iowa), our salary schedule is way lower than nearby schools in the Phoenix area, and other things that were not very teacher friendly being implemented by our super. I couldn’t live with it and neither could the two AP’s I hired last year. Yesterday I looked at the website for my former school and compared it to the website of the other high school, my school has about half of the teachers as the other school. I knew that a bunch of teachers were leaving for other jobs and it doesn’t look like any have been hired. My super literally appointed one of his buddies from Oklahoma as Principal rather than go through the usual process of interview candidates with teachers, students, and parents. I’m not sure how that could happen. He also appointed a hometown hero, former NFL player, as athletic director…again without interviewing and without administrative certification to replace the other AP/AD who resigned. And the other AP position has not been filled yet and next week is teacher workshop. With all this upheaval and open positions, I can’t imagine what my staff is feeling right now-this close to the start of school. As I pondered this yesterday, I almost became sick with worry for my teachers and kids. This will be the first year I will not have a first day of school after 30 years. I am starting an account executive position with Ricoh USA in about a week…about the same time as the start of school. It makes me a little sad that I will not be welcoming kids to school on the first day. I am quite excited, however, to turn the page on a new chapter in my career.

    Your anxiety will soon pass when you begin to see your creation and products of your TEACHING come to life before your eyes. NEVER forget that there is nothing quite like being a band director to get that feeling…that feeling of getting kids to produce musical sounds that make other people and them FEEL different emotions.

  3. Great blog Pat. It does look like the weather will be beautiful for band camp. Yesterday I received in the mail what I called the “dreaded back to school letter”. It always produces anxiety to see the in service schedule and all the back to school events. I haven’t received one for quite a few years so I am embracing it. Always remember that teaching is “good work”.

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