Today, someone’s first impression of me was of a vaguely homeless-looking mop wearing a sweat-stained shirt with some kind of reptilian sea woman on it, dirty shorts, and running shoes that match the rest of the outfit which looked like it was cobbled together by a troll living under a bridge. First impressions are important because they’re the foundation of your perception and understanding of a person–even if they later prove that your first impression of them was inaccurate. This one was accurate. I have become a monster of filth and sweat and apathy, but now it’s time to get ready for work again which means it’s time to loosely cloak my awful exterior in something resembling professional attire–but I won’t change a thing about my gooey uncaring center. To the fresh teacher who saw me looking like the hair you pull from a shower drain, I’m not even remotely sorry. It’ll happen to you.
The new cohort of grad student teachers came in, and I saw them briefly. It’s a lot like in high school when you see the new freshmen come to campus for the first time, or when you first bring a kitten home with you: they’re wobbly, young, and fragile to the point that it looks like anything could kill them. When I saw this new flock of people only one year my junior, I wanted to warn them. I wanted to tell them what’ll happen.
First, they’ll be optimistic. They may not have seen Dead Poets Society–because I hadn’t–but some part of their hope for teacher-hood will be to become some revolutionary eccentric figure like Robin Williams. They’ll want to inspire the youth to love art or literature or writing or sentence diagramming. They might even want to start the first day off with some profound statement. I feel like every English teacher’s goal is to build more writers, to multiply so we might gain strength and then maybe the science teachers won’t be mean to us anymore.
And then they will forget they were trying to inspire the country’s youth. They’ll forget the importance they assigned to their own work because the stress of keeping up with grading and lesson planning and around 40 hours of their own classwork will turn their optimism to oil, and it doesn’t take long to burn out.
Then, after they’ve decided teaching isn’t for them, and they’ve concluded that their students are monsters, and they’ve screamed in a pillow so much that it’s also in therapy, then the first month will be over. Things will get much easier, and the young teachers will get into the swing of things and start to care less about things that seemed colossally important at the beginning of the semester. I deliberated for about 45 minutes on what shirt to wear to my first class. I only had 5 shirts to choose from. They were going to see them all. Why did I care? Now, I’ve reached the transcendent state in which I know how to do the work I used to be scared of, and I know I’m as competent or more than my peers, and I have like 5 more shirts than I started out with.
If I could say one thing to the new teacher who saw me looking like the kindergarten art project of a dumpster, I would say “it’ll happen to you too, but it’s kind of great.”