I’m ready. I’ve got my picture of Chris Pratt, my Redbull given to me by strange women outside my office, and my half-eaten tuna sandwich. I don’t know what I could possibly do to prepare more for my first day back at teaching. I guess I could pack a rope and some spare pants, but I doubt I’ll need those before the third week.
Like every semester, I’ve got some feelings about getting started again. I haven’t exactly changed much since I got my first class. Sure, I’m happier while somehow also being more bitter; I’m better at managing my time, but all that means is I know exactly how much I can procrastinate without hurting myself; I might even be more patient with new students, but I really don’t want to see the occasion in which that patience is tested. Like a doctor who hates their job, I’d rather have no patience.
I’m excited, like every other time, but now I have a better idea of what I should be excited for. Students used to represent infinite potential to me, and they still do in a way, but I also have a much more realistic idea of what they’ll be. Despite their apparent physical, emotional, and cognitive differences, students are human. Even though I’ve heard my kids talk about staying up all night for days on end while fueled only by pizza and the dark magic of loans, I know they are, at their core, pretty much just younger versions of me. So I’m not so much excited by the wild potential of my new students, but I’m really looking forward to how weird they all are compared to the boring milquetoast sweater-wearing doofus I’ve become.
And I’m also nervous, but like with everything else, I’m way better at being nervous now than I was a year ago. I used to worry that my class wouldn’t like my jokes or my personality of my tendency to bombard them with pictures of my objectively adorable cat. I’ve no such trepidations now. Even though my last class did laugh at me–when I wanted them to and sometimes when I didn’t–I still wouldn’t be too worried. I’ve graduated beyond that specific fear because I’ve achieved that ideal level of emotional numbness and overwhelming apathy where I don’t care if they dislike my humor because I’m going to keep making jokes anyway, and who doesn’t like puns? However, the thing I definitely am nervous about is that this new flock of youthful bloodhounds will be with me through the next 16 weeks, through the next semester in which I’m teaching, grading, running two other jobs on the side, and working on my own Masters program. They’re going to see me decay like a pumpkin left out after Halloween. I worry they will see me rot, and they will use that weakness. This might be the first semester I give extra credit.
I wish I was a plant. Ferns do not need to play name games and share fun facts about their Summer. But I’m not a fern. I’m a teacher, and my job involves interacting with a lot of people every day and getting to know them, and they inevitably get to know me too, but that’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t want these students to know me too well. In semesters before this, I’ve walked a fine line between letting my students know me as a person and making sure they don’t think they can treat me like other people in their lives. It’s frustrating when I have a student I think is a cool person, but I have to treat them like everyone else, or when I have a student I’d like to smack with a gardening trowel, but I have to treat them exactly the same as the students I actually like.
Teaching continues to be a weird job. The students are strange and are undeniably human which is equal parts exhausting and refreshing. Like other teachers, I can say that my students inspire me. Unlike other teachers, I’m going to finish that sentence. My students inspire me… to drink, and complain, and work very hard, and stay up late doing extra, and they also make me want to jump off a bridge. And now it’s time for me to go off and meet a new batch.