The Eleventh Honeymoon

11 years ago, I promised myself I would inspire, kick butt, and teach kids to the best of their abilities. Ten years ago, I eschewed all that and said I would be much stricter with them because they needed it. Nine years ago, I wanted to take pieces of my first two years and double down on my firm resolve. Eight years ago, I wanted to test my mettle with a brand new set of students who would eventually push me to ponder a whole new career. Every year, my energies oscillate from elation to downright neurosis. I’ve reread Harry and Rosemary Wong’s First Days of School, visited classrooms throughout the summer months, and revamped entire curricula so I could be a better teacher for my students.

In my eleventh year, I told myself to quit all that and make Mr. Vilson as close to Jose as professionally possible.

I still come into school 30-45 minutes early, reading material in hand. I still get my cup of coffee in the corner store. But I’ve changed my approach. I’m better at saying “good morning” to fellow faculty before that first sip. I’m better at picking up around myself around the classroom. I’m better at letting some of my frustrations go.

I still put on music during my morning session. I’m better at leaving the song on while the students walk into class, especially if it’s John Coltrane.

The students trickle in with the usual zeal, or lack thereof. Some meander around the lockers, digging into the backpacks while talking to friends. Others dap each other up while chatting about the upcoming basketball season, Spongebob Squarepants, or the latest anime they’ve picked up. Still others sit in their seats, wondering what Mr. Vilson has cooked up for the day. A couple come in late, with the dean imploring (yes, light work here) them to get into their classes. I’ve already memorized their names by day 3, unnerving for them, comforting for me.

My voice simmers for Do Nows, comes to a slow boil for the first example, overruneth by group activity time.

In my eleventh year, I’ve also learned to allow students to show me their mid-season form so as not to take me by surprise in January. I’d rather structure my classroom around their honest selves splayed for us to examine and understand. In turn, I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to show them my personality from the beginning, affirming the importance of our work in my actions. Three classes, two for ten periods, one for four periods.

This year, I affirm the totality of all we do. Early and often.

I still don’t know whether I’m going to be the teacher I think I can be. I’m certainly much better than the teachers I’d been years one through 10, and I’ll probably say that for years to come. And that’s the way honeymoons have been described to me.