The day before the day before

It’s almost five o’clock on Tuesday evening. I am sitting at a student desk in the front of my classroom because, as it turns out, that’s where the plug is. While I know this means I will probably need to rearrange my classroom tomorrow, that’s ok. I like this view: I can see all of my bookshelves, full and mostly organized – the result of hours and hours of work. Truly, it’s not nearly enough books, but I’ve collected them by hook and by crook – a few dollars here, a used book there, an occasional email plea – so I’m please with how many I have. To walk into this room is to know we read here.

The small classroom window to my right is open and, because the door to my left is ajar, I can feel a gentle air current that’s slightly at odds with the rhythmic sound of basketballs on the court outside. A community court, I think, it has been busy all day but now the grunts and laughter seem louder because the school is quieter. I know that this quiet is telling me to go home, and I will. I will. I will.

I look up again. The bulletin boards are still largely bare and the black space stares at me, reminding me of things to come. I haven’t yet put up my posters – that’s for tomorrow. I don’t have too many and they’re not too big, but I like the pop of colour they bring and I value the welcoming words on each one. I know, too, that I must leave these boards empty for now so that my students can make this space their own. Soon they will be here and their work will fill our spaces. Soon, the room will not be mine, but ours. I wonder what it will look like? I wonder who will be in this space? I look up again, taking it in, trying to be in the moment and failing.

I am not in this moment – the moment of the books and the breeze and the basketball and the blank bulletin boards. My poor system is still settling from the three fire alarms today – all accidental, all forcing us outside, forcing us to be in the now when we are desperately trying to prepare for the future, for Thursday when the students arrive.

I am back there, under the tree during a fire alarm, having an impromptu department meeting to discuss class assignments. I am in the hallways, trying to learn everyone’s names, realizing again and again the importance of faces that I cannot see. And I am already in the bookroom again, tomorrow, shelving one final box of books. I am already imagining where I will place the posters that are now on the desk in front of me. If it’s here, can they read it? Where will they sit? Who will take comfort in or find courage from these words? Who will they be, these students? Who are they now, in their homes, at their jobs, maybe on the basketball court, bouncing, bouncing and loving these last hours of summer?

Whoever they are, I hope they know that these moments right before the classroom fills, these moments are full of trembling anticipation for me, their teacher, too. Today I am in the past and in the future. Thursday – Thursday! – I will be in the moment and we will begin a new school year and the mysterious alchemy of learning and loving learning will start to work and then… magic.

One more deep breath. Now to close the windows, stop the breeze and go home.

5 thoughts on “The day before the day before

  1. I am with you fellow teacher. I begin on Thursday as well. I have been planning and think ahead most of last week and today. I told myself that I will soak in these last moments of summer tonight but taking it easy for one final night before it all begins. I plan to soak in a sunset and be in this moment. I hope your first day goes well.

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  2. I can feel sense of incompletion hovering in the completion of what can be done without the students. Maybe it is like cmhutter says, because we are teachers, we know this. But, I think I can identify it in the craft here. My favourite line: “Today I am in the past and in the future”. That’s what teaching is and where we linger often now and not now, past and not past, future and not future. I wonder if that is why it’s so exhausting? We are never here.

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  3. I feel tension here…wanting to be settled but knowing that you won’t until the seats are full of kids, leaving before you were really ready. One more day until students arrive…I hope you feel ready then!

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  4. There is so much hope here, for the year to come. I love the quiet anticipation you described. It’s so good when the kids finally come! So weird… we had two fire alarms go off the day before kids came too. Good luck this week!

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  5. I have sit through 2 days of virtual PD while in the library space and it’s a disaster. Completely unready to welcome students at all. I think it will still be weeks until I am able to fully put the space back together to welcome students into it as well. I hope to have a moment of reflection like this. All the best for a great year for you and your students.

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