Roughly 7,300-ish days ago, I began my teaching career in eastern Pennsylvania. I remember my very FIRST first-day-of-school morning… very vividly. I was a newlywed, new to the east side of PA (growing up north of Pittsburgh) and I remember rolling over in bed, thinking it seemed a little brighter outside than it should be.
It was then that I realized… the power had gone out!
Keep in mind, this was the year 1999… before iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, etc… the available technology for an alarm was an actual alarm clock (which I still use… just me? HA)…
I jolted out of bed, and referenced the analog, battery-powered clock hanging in our apartment kitchen, realizing I had just enough time to shower and make it to school if I started getting ready right away!
I awkwardly attempted applying make-up by candlelight and flashlight-light, and can’t remember if I let my hair simply air-dry, or if I pulled it up in a soaking pony tail or bun, knowing time would surely cure my wet head. The commute is also a complete blur, but I know I made it on time, rattled yet ready. Or so I thought…
It was THEN that I realized that every other staff member had received a “first day of school” paper schedule in their respective “first day of school” folder of information… days before, and that this one sheet of paper had been inadvertently omitted from my folder. Surprise! Classes are out of order and it’s time to think on your feet and be flexible, Yenca! Welcome to teaching! I didn’t know what I didn’t know – there was no Google Doc to reference, or e-mail to check.
I don’t remember what the modified schedule entailed… an assembly perhaps? Shorter classes than I’d anticipated and planned for? That all worked out for the newbie… I had over-planned and was over-prepared right out of the gate due to the omission. But everything I’d meticulously written on the chalk board the day before regarding the bell schedule was suddenly irrelevant.
Time for my first class! As the orange-carpeted classroom (with no windows) filled with my first batch of real students, and the late bell rang, I entered proudly. Before I could speak a syllable, a boy who I learned later was named Peter exclaimed,
“How old ARE YOU?”
I was 22.
But I did not say, “I am 22-years-old, thank you for asking.”
“Young man, there are 3 things you never ask a woman. You never ask her age, her weight, or if that is her natural hair color. Do you understand, sir?!?”
*Crickets might have chirped at this moment.*
And that’s how it all began.
Today, I woke up before my alarm clock (and iPhone back-up alarm) sounded… I had a peaceful morning of reflection in a quiet house before using my hairdryer and putting on make-up under actual vanity lights… I posed for first-day-of-school photos with my son (a high school freshman) and paused with gratitude that I still get back-to-school jitters about this thing called teaching math. I met my new kiddos… no one asks how old I am anymore… it was a day of fun, and peace, and confirmation that 20 years later, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
I did find after school that there was a nail lodged in one of my tires, as the sensor in my car alerted me the air was low. Folks at a local garage patched my tire in a jiffy, but I’m truly thankful for that nail. Something about that tiny first-day-of school tire mishap brought all of these 20-ish-year-old memories to the forefront of my mind.
Here’s hoping your first day, full of mishaps or smooth sailing, brings you jitters and gratitude too.