As soon as the calendar hits August, I start to wonder where the summer went? It seems like things were just getting started when, all of a sudden, the “Sunday of Summer” storms onto the scene; the beginning of a new school year is upon us. All aboard for another year of chaotic yet productive growth!
Starting a school year is like starting a steam engine from a cold stop. Coffee and muffins are my engine’s fuel in those early days. I get myself up, very slowly, at 5:00 am to shower and get ready before the kids wake up. It feels like I’m moving through molasses, walking through a routine I haven’t practiced in months. I nurse the baby. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to see my toddler if he wakes up before I leave. My husband tags in to feed breakfast and ready the crew for daycare drop off before heading to work himself.
I leave the house. Without kids. Just me. It is a feeling so foreign, but also liberating. I miss them immediately and yet I am so happy for some time to myself as I drive my short 15-minute commute. It’s ironic that spending a day teaching 150 other people’s kids feels like a break. I have exactly 41 minutes of instruction with each of my 6 classes; 5 minutes to use the restroom, breakdown & set up a lab, supervise the hallway, and greet my students in between. Somewhere in there I pump for my daughter, eat lunch, grade papers, prepare lab equipment, and lesson plan. I’m firing up the train engine.
The first week is H A R D, for everyone in my family. I am not a morning person, so waking up sometimes hours before the sun rises is difficult to sustain. Having to leave my daughter for longer than 2 hours for the first time in her life chokes me up. My husband relishes the time I have at home with the kids during summer, because it means he’s got backup for getting the kids up and ready. We can eat a hot breakfast together. But, going back to school doesn’t leave time in our morning routine for that. The kids, heartbreakingly, meltdown at daycare drop off, every day. Our sitter is a saint; she scoops them both up and ushers them off to be distracted so my husband can exit stage left.
This process does not go smoothly; I forget my lunch and deodorant on the second day. My daughter still won’t drink a bottle and I worry about her becoming dehydrated. My son has perfected the real-life frowny face emoji, complete with teary eyes. He usually devolves into a full-blown meltdown by the time we are through the door. They are both hyper and exhausted when I pick them up at the end of the day. Making a home-cooked dinner seems like a Herculean task. Household tasks and projects that I ambitiously tried tackling this summer slow to a halt. The train is inching forward, picking up steam.
Days start rolling ahead. We survived the first full week. My classroom students are becoming more comfortable with the school routine. I am learning their names, interests, and personality quirks. We are forming rapport that will build throughout the course of the year. Waking up at 5 am gets easier (just kidding – 14 years later and I still have trouble waking up every.single.morning). Packing lunches becomes second nature. The train whistle is blowing, everyone’s on board, and its chug-a-lugging down the tracks.
Being a teacher mom isn’t always easy. Particularly, since I teach high school students but have little babies (2.5 yr old and 9 month old), my brain is constantly switching gears between multiple modes. The approach I take with my students doesn’t work on my own children, and vice versa. But, there is some overlap. Genuine concern for my students’ well-being and success goes a long way. I think my students have helped me become the mom I am, along the course of my 14-year career.
Even though the end of summer and beginning of the school year is tough, I low key love the fresh start a new school year brings. New clothes, new crisp fall weather, new attitude, new chance to be a better, improved version of yourself.