Teacher's Confession: Why First Day Back is Best and Worst Part of the Year

Teacher's Confession: Why First Day Back is Best and Worst Part of the Year

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Ed. Note: Illiana Perez just spent two months of summer bliss rubbing her vacation time in the faces of friends and family. Now, school is in full swing, and she must remember why she loves teaching, if only to compensate for her total absence of a social life. Perez teaches high school Spanish in San Jose, Calif.

When you’re a student, summer is sweet. But when you’re a teacher, it’s sweeter -- much much sweeter. Two months of nothing…and everything. Staying up late on a weekday just because you can and forgetting what day of the week it is because every day just happens to feel like a Saturday, are just some of the joys of adult summer vacations. “You are soooo lucky,” they say, “Hell yes I am!” I respond. You see, part of the fun of being on vacation, is telling everyone about it.

But the two months of fun abruptly end when the teaching nightmares begin. Here’s a personal favorite: I’m standing in front of my classroom in front of 35 out of control kids that won’t even look at me. I yell at the top of my lungs to get their attention but quickly realize that I have forgotten to make any lesson plans for my physics class (I teach Spanish) and…oh, I’m also half naked but am totally nonchalant about it hoping the screaming kids wont notice.

Finally, the first day of instruction is here. The day has been announced with staff meetings, back to school supply shopping, and endless days of whining all unfortunately unloaded on my fiancé. I’m sure I hate my life, my job, and everything about my career. On my way to school I look at the man working construction on the corner and contemplate a career change. I catch myself envying the barrista foaming my latte. But it’s inevitable; I am now headed to my 1st day of my 5th year teaching.

I walk into my classroom, hot coffee in hand and suddenly hear a loud “Señorita Péreeeeeez!!” and POOF… I love my job once again. Everything comes naturally again, and most importantly I realize instantaneously that I love my job because I love my kids. I realize that all of my dramatic antics preparing for this day weren’t to mourn the beginning of school but to mourn the loss of my TIME.

You see, while I spent my summer rubbing the fact that I get vacation in everyone’s faces, I quickly forgot that all of that free time I get during the summer is basically make up time. Make up time for all of the nights I spend at coffee shops preparing lessons and ignoring the social world around me. I try to live a balanced life, but sometimes I need to prioritize animating my PowerPoint’s over trivia nights. Sorry.

“But it’s your 5th year! Shouldn’t you be a pro?!” they ask.

The truth is; if teaching gets way too easy by your 5th year… then maybe you’re doing it wrong. Maybe it shouldn’t consume your whole world, like it has mine at times, but it should definitely still be a challenge. Because the reality is, kids are a challenge. A huge, evolving challenge. So naturally, as they evolve, so do I.

So to all you young non-teachers, please enjoy your trivia nights and salsa Tuesdays. Be joyous at your Thursday night happy hours and your midnight movie premiers. But most of all rest assured that I am at a coffee shop near you frantically grading the essays I assigned two nights ago. And remember, don’t pity me, because I may currently have no social life, but you will soon be envious of the two beautiful months I get that are filled with nothing…. and everything.