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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Schoolmares! Teachers are Nervous Too!

Last night I had my first "Schoolmare" of the season. Usually in late August before the start of school I begin having night mares about school, hence my term "schoolmare". Last night the dream was about going into my school to prepare my classroom. When I arrived in my room there was a mess everywhere. My desk was piled high with dust. After leaving my room I met my principal near his office. He shook hands with me and wouldn't let go until I sat down.

When I sat down he started telling me the 'new' rules, and how we couldn't possibly participate in the National Geographic Geography Bee because there could be no time spent on anything other than book learning. I of course flew out of the room upset and bumped into one of the bright, young, cheerful teachers with whom I work. She was wearing this cute little tie die sundress with a skinny yellow belt and was trying to console me.

I awoke with a start and realized three things:
1. The bright young teacher moved out of state last year & would NEVER wear tie die....
2. The principal in my dreams was older & our principal is quite YOUNG!
3. These SCHOOLMARES are starting earlier and earlier .

Usually my Schoolmares happen during the last week in August, but

I'm thinking they started earlier this year because we are getting a new principal. As exciting as this is I'm a teensy bit nervous. Much like I imagine the students might feel who are coming to me this year. So thinking along those lines I know I will do everything I can to make my new students feel comfortable. So too, I envision my new principal will do for his staff.

Just so you know....Teachers are nervous too! And not just because they are getting a new principal. Here are some reasons I get butterflies in my stomach when school starts:
  • I'm nervous the kids will be nervous.
  • I'm worried I haven't gotten everything ready - my room, student name pieces, work plans, etc.
  • I'm thinking about ALL the things that need to be accomplished (instead of breaking items into smaller more manageable chunks).
  • I'm hoping that the kids will like being in fourth grade, and that I'll be able to expose them to many wonderful learning experiences.
  • I'm trepidatious because I know families entrust their 'gold' to me, and I want to make sure they are treated respectfully and with kindness.
Often times the students come to school with mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement. They know that starting a new year brings different challenges. Usually after day one those feelings abate. These are some of the activities I will incorporate to help alleviate my students feel at ease.
  • Getting to know one another - we will be doing all kinds of activities to get to know one another. I take time on the first day of school playing a name game so students and teacher learn each others names. We will learn about little facts about each other through a scavenger hunt. There will be more "getting to know you" activities throughout the week.
  • Getting to know the classroom and school - Students will spend time doing a scavenger hunt around the room (and school)to become familiar with the layout. They will look for the class schedule, the pencil sharpener, their names in several places, the homework basket, the important paper file, the math manipulatives etc. Students will work together to create class rules and learn about Citizenship.
  • Read Aloud - I usually read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, but this year I may want to read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg which is about a teacher who is nervous and read Chrysanthemum on the second day. These will be used to introduce my Daily 5 reading mini-lessons. Yes, we start on the first day of school!
  • Modeling and Practicing Routines: Establishing routines through modeling and practice gives the students a sense of structure which makes them feel safe and sets the tone for the year. These will occur during the above activities as well as others during the day.
  • Start Learning Right Away: We will begin our lessons right away. The students will see that our class is a place of constant learning (which again sets the tone for the year).
My 'schoolmares' may not be over, but once I step foot in that classroom my attention and energy will be directed towards making my students feel comfortable which will re-direct my own anxious feelings. The first day of school is a new start for everyone!
First Day of School Resources:
Busy Bee Activity Page: This page contains activities and ideas for the first day and weeks of school.
I Love That Teaching Idea: Several activities to help with the start of school.
Lesson Plan Page: Back to school tips, lesson plans and resources (with grade levels)
AtoZTeacherStuff: A list of 33 sites that provide links to resources for the beginning of the school year.

top photo credit: bitzcelt via photo pin cc


  1. Hi Nancy,
    Schoolmares happen to me too. This year they have been fewer, but still make me wake with a start sometimes.

    I know that you and your students will get off on the right foot because you will have made detailed plans and created engaging activities. Having a new person at the helm doesn't help alleviate the back-to-school jitters, but think about it from his perspective also.

    Wishing you sweet dreams and a great start to the 2012-2013 school year.

  2. Oh, i feel for you, Nancy! I've been having School nightmares alll summer. I think its because of my rough year last year!

  3. @ Paula - It's nice to know that others have schoolmares too! It's actually kind of funny when you think about it.

    I'm excited to meet and work with our new principal. And I'm equally excited to start a new year with my students. We have lots of great projects lined up for them like Mystery State skyping and Citizen Science projects. Looking forward to learning about Mardi Gras from your group this year! Good luck to you too!

    @Heather - I know you are going to have a great year as you're back in fourth! It's nice to know others share the same experience. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. Hello fellow teachers! I too have been starting my yearly routine of having schoolmares in preparation for the new year to come. I thought you might be interested to know that my picture book,Schoolmares, was published a few years ago. It is a story I originally wrote for my students to help them understand that teachers get nervous too, in the same vein as First Day Jitters. If you get a chance to check it out, I'd love to hear what you think. Good luck with the new school year!
    --Tina D Jones, Canton, MI

  5. @Tina - Thank you for sharing your book with us. I will be sure to check out "Schoolmares" and perhaps read that as well to my students. This makes me think I should have my students create a class book about their schoolmares.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Wondering if you might be interested in skyping my class to talk about your book?

    Take care.

  6. 15 years into it, and I'm still having Schoolmares. They always start the first or second week of August, and they culminate in a sleepless night of nervous excitement the night before school starts! At least I know I'll sleep well after that first week. ;)

    Thanks for the suggestions of First Day Jitters! I will definitely be checking that out. I'll also need to check out Tina's book, too!

  7. @Becky - As you may know I'll be starting my 22nd year! It's so funny to learn that so many other teachers have those dreams too! I also get them sporadically through the year and often my current students are in them. I love to share those stories with them as they think it's funny that they would be in my dreams. Do they not understand that they are in my thoughts every waking moment and beyond?

    I'll be checking out both books too. So glad that Tina stopped by to tell us about her book as well.

    Thanks Becky for taking the time to comment.

    Take care.

  8. Hi Nance,

    Your schoolmares have started early! Mine are always about total chaos in the room. I haven't had them yet, but I'm sure they're coming. Looking forward to a wonderful new school year!
    Deb P.

  9. @Deb Total chaos schoolmares....still to come I'm sure! Looking forward to a great year. I bet you'll love being in the main wing...I'll pop by on my way back from PE!!!!

    Thanks for taking time to comment.

  10. Nancy,
    I love how you totally captured our "schoolmares" We are matter how long we've been doing this. As much as I love the beginning of each year, I have anxiety that comes with it!
    I hope there isn't a pile of dust on your desk. :)
    Enjoy the possibilities!

  11. Nancy, I have techmares! Last week I walked into the Computer Lab to find students, teachers, custodians and even police officers (???), having a wonderful luncheon with drinks, food, and crumbs all spilling onto the computers and keyboards. I woke up with heart pounding and grateful for the sight of my bedroom and not the Lab. I guess we all have nervous jitters about getting ready for a new school year...just different!

  12. Karen,
    I'm sorry - but I laughed out loud at your techmare! That would just be so horrible if it really happened. It is amazing to learn that everyone has these 'workmares'. As soon as we are back all will be well and the 'mares' will hopefully go away!

    Hope you are enjoying your summer other than that....Take care and thanks for commenting.

  13. Hi Nancy,

    I happened to experience nervousness too when I was invited to give a talk to a couple of students a year ago...The moment I stepped on the auditorium, my heart was pounding so fast. When I started my speech, everything became smooth and my heart relaxed...I know that teachers are experiencing schoolmare are more likely to stay strong throughout the year.

    Thank you for I learned a lot from this post.

  14. I really enjoyed reading this post. I am currently an education major in college. This is a really helpful post about how teachers feel. Everyone expects students to be nervous, but no one thinks about the teachers. This lets me know that it is okay to be nervous because other teachers actually feel the same way.

  15. Hi Kelsi,
    It's true that many teachers feel this way. I love that several people have even written picture books about the topic. I did read "First Day Jitters" this year and the kids loved it - especially the end when they discovered it was the teacher who was nervous. Good luck in your studies - soon you'll have these dreams yourself!
    Please feel free to stop by anytime!


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