Teachers have first-day nerves too

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CES first grade teacher Jennifer Owen readies her class for the new year.

Everyone can remember the feeling that comes right before the start of school as a kid. The sense of loss of summer combined with butterflies that come with the thought of seeing old friends, making new ones and facing all the uncertainties that are the first day of school is a universal one among children.

Apparently, it still rings somewhat true for teachers, too.

“[I get] nervous but excited at the same time,” said Jessi Seamon, a kindergarten teacher at Clanton Elementary going into her seventh year. “You’re sad to see summer end but excited to see a fresh start.”

Jennifer Owen, a first grade teacher at CES entering her third year, said nervousness doesn’t really figure into her first day.

“I don’t get nervous; I get stressed out,” she said. “The first day is a lot of get-to-know-you stuff. I want the kids to know me as much I know them. Trying to get paperwork turned in with the kids there [is tough].”

In addition to paperwork and trying to get to know the students, both teachers agreed the day is challenging because it isn’t like a normal school day. Whereas teachers would normally have lesson plans to follow and subjects to teach, the first day is filled with the aforementioned paperwork and trying to learn students’ names and tendencies.

“It’s not like a typical day,” said Owen. “You go over rules and procedures, and it’s the first time running a schedule. I get stressed out about the end of the day about making sure the kids get where they need to go.”

Seamon also said she felt dismissal was a trying part of the day.

“The end of the day [is tough],” said Seamon. “Just making sure everyone gets where they need to go. With kindergarten, you can’t go by what they say.”

The teachers who truly favor the students in terms of nervousness and excitement are those entering their first year. Seamon said rookie teachers have the first day of school the most difficult.

“A lot changes from your first day,” she said. “You just go through the motions [and try to keep up]. Now, I’m comfortable with the first day of school.”

Owen said that often, first year teachers are as unsure of things as new students.

“Your first year, you’re like a deer in the headlights,” she said. “[You become] much more prepared after that.”

The key to handling the controlled chaos that is the first day of school is all in planning. The right amount of preparation can save teachers from a lot of headaches, according to Owens.

“I am one of those really organized people,” she said. “I know if I stress, I can look at notes I’ve taken [leading up to the start of school].”

Seamon said she felt the main thing to remember is that keeping a level head saves a lot of trouble on the first day.

“With kindergartners, most can’t write their name to begin with, so you go back to basics,” she said. “You just have to be very flexible. Be prepared, but be flexible, and go with the flow.”