How Teachers Really Feel About Going Back to School

Rebecca Eckler September 19, 2016
teachers back to school

Much has been written about back-to-school everything, from the stresses, the excitement, the anxiety, the shopping, and the organizing—for both parents and children. Alas, we almost always forget that teachers—who have one of the hardest, and often most thankless, jobs in the world—also have feelings when it comes to starting a new school year. How do teachers really feel about heading back to the classroom? We asked ten teachers, from across Canada, to tell us the truth, anonymously, about what it’s like for them as they head back to school.

From nervousness, excitement, and even recurring nightmares, their answers may surprise you!

1) ‘Actually, I am looking forward to go back. September is like my January…my New Year. I have never not been in school. Went right from elementary, high school, university and to employment. So, for me, September means school. I find my body craves the structure and schedule of September. Now, do not get me wrong. Summer is fantastic, but as the weather changes, so does my mood. I think I am a very seasonal person. In September, I start to crave soup, mashed potatoes and football. The start of school is just an extension of a change in the seasons. Summer is very fun, free of routine and late, very late bedtimes., but I look forward to new pencils, new clothes and to a schedule.

2) ‘I‘m going into my 20th year of teaching and still feel nervous to go back. I taught a university additional qualification course for teachers the first three weeks of the summer but have been on break since then. Now I feel like I‘ve forgotten everything I know and am wondering what has happened to my brain! I will be at school setting up that last week so HOPEFULLY after labour day, I will be ok. One of my kids has an out of town tournament labour day weekend and my husband has suggested that if I am my usual bundle of nerves, perhaps I shouldn‘t come!

3) ‘Haha. Honestly? Nervous, excited, and sad all at once. I love the summer and the freedom it brings, but it sometimes doesn‘t feel like real life. I get worried at the beginning like everyone else, and the Unknown of a New Year is both good and bad.

4) ‘I would say that there are two types of teachers. It sounds really spoiled but sometimes the long break is actually harder to come back from. Some people struggle to get back into ‘work mode‘ after two months off. There is definitely September depression for some teachers. The anxiety about the coming year hits by mid-August and need to get back to a regular routine. I need a daily purpose outside being home with my daughter all day. So despite having to get up and brush my hair again, it does feel good to be productive. My mother-in-law, who was a high school teacher, would have recurring nightmares about going to school on the first day in her pajamas and all the kids and staff making fun of her. They would start the second week of August!

5) ‘So it‘s bittersweet. There‘s a part of me that feels like, ‘S**t back to reality‘ and am sad that I have way less free time on my hands. It‘s so nice to do morning workouts, have time alone in the house before my hubby comes home and kids get home. However, I really love what I do and am excited for the new year.

6) ‘On the outside, we might complain about it, but the truth is that actually, we [teachers] are all pretty excited to go back. We spend a lot of the summer rejigging our programs and/or preparing to teach something new. We love getting new school supplies even more than the kids and setting up our classrooms. We are all pretty anxious (most won‘t admit it) and nervous and optimistic. It kind of feels like when your second baby is born. You know that you know what to do, but [you‘re] are also sort of scared you‘ve forgotten. No matter how awesome you were with the last class, each one is totally different with different needs and strengths and challenges and requires a whole new bag of tricks. I think we‘re the luckiest profession in the world because we get these two months to recharge before we fall in with our jobs all over again.

7) “There are a few things we‘re sad about. We know that that even though this year we say it will be different, we know that once school starts, our social life comes to a grinding halt. My friends know that I am pretty much a summertime friend. I can, and often do, make 2-3 sets of plans with friends during because I know that come the last week of the summer, when we really go back both mentally and physically, they won‘t see me again for another 9 months.

8) ‘One funny fact: there is a recurring nightmare that I have and almost every teacher I know has in the weeks leading up to school where we can‘t control our class/did not prepare any lessons/are late for school/forgot to go to school. It‘s a full-on phenomenon. It‘s also hard for those who have little kids (and bigger kids) because they‘ve gotten so used to us being there and having time to make them breakfast, do all sorts of special outings, and being free at night instead of busy with marking and preparing.

9) ‘I feel great about it. Start up is always nerve wracking but frankly I get bored in the summer. My kids are at camp and my husband is at work. I take courses in the summers to keep me going but they end in July. I look forward to the end of next week because I will get time with my kids. But I love my job and can‘t wait to get back to it. I know some people say the dread it. I personally have only met one who hates going back. But I have the same attitude I would have for anyone who hates any job they might have—go find something you actually love doing! The kids need us more than ever to be positive role models. If they think we are negative about being there or with them, they will know. They are smart and intuitive. If I ever become that way, I will quit.

10) ‘It‘s always stressful for educational assistants because we never know where we‘ll end up. They don‘t tell us until the year starts, so you could be anywhere from Kindergarten to Grade Six with any teacher, so you have to be flexible.

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