That’s what a friend said to me Saturday night over dinner. I took a bite of beans and rice, then nodded. “Yep, I think that’s the most you can hope for sometimes in September.”
Maybe hate is too strong of a word. But maybe you don’t know her class. Regardless, let’s be real about the underlying emotion in my friend’s statement. September is a long, hard month compared to June. It’s a month in which you have to exert twice as much energy to get half the results. There’s no way around it–it takes a few weeks to get used to the new group of kids, to figure out their idiosyncrasies and personalities, and get some FLOW going.
In September, everything is still a comparison to last year’s class. The teacher’s lounge is filled with weary attempts for validation:
-“Doesn’t it seem like my kids last year were so much more WITH IT?”
-“Don’t you think the kids last year were higher in math? This group has NO CLUE about place value!”
-“These kids talk, talk, talk, all the time. My kids last year were so much quieter. Hmm. Weren’t they?”
It takes awhile to start vibing with a new class. There’s a bit of a mourning period for the former group that doesn’t conclude neatly at the end of summer. For me, the trigger is explaining routines and procedures. All I can think is, Did I have to repeat myself THIS MANY times last year? Did it really take THIS LONG for my kids to master the art of putting the caps back on their markers? Seriously?
And the answer is, yeah, pretty much. It’s just hard to remember that far back, when all you can picture is how smart and independent the kids had become by June. That’s perfectly normal. You are not a bad person or a lousy teacher because you haven’t ‘clicked’ yet with your class.
Starting not to dislike your class in September is probably a decent starting point. October usually brings “I like my kids. Or most of them, at least.” With any luck, you’ll feel genuine affection by November, and you’ll be wiping the tears from your eyes as the kids leave for winter break (or at least feeling pretty good about their January return).
Until then, FAKE IT. You are not only a teacher, you are an actor. Your job is to act like things are under control and progressing nicely even when you are exhausted and going over morning work routines for the millionth time. This is for your kids’ sake and your own. Tell yourself, “This is going to be a great year. My kids are going to get better behaved and smarter every day. This class is likeable and precious. I will not dread Mondays forever. We will eventually fall into pleasant routines that do not involve constant reminders and redirection. I will survive this day and every day after will be an improvement.” Repeat until it happens.
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