August, the image is similar each year. Stores filled with patrons gathered around a cornucopia of folders, binders, pencils, pens, rulers, and over priced items simply because there is a superhero's, or a teen superstar's face slapped on it. Ah yes, time for school to begin. Parents dance gleefully through stores while depressed and dejected children follow behind. Parent's thrilled at what this out flow of money means and children wanting to cry at the thought of it.
And what exactly, you may ask, does it mean to them? Freedom. To the parents it is freedom from having to entertain elementary through pseudo-adult ages for 3 months. Freedom from the full day of listening to video games, radio's, or high pitch girlish laughter. Freedom from nights of being asked if they can go play night games or from being told that the children they were so excited to have home for the summer are bored. Freedom from staying up late waiting for teenagers to come home. Freedom from the wining. Parent's for the most part love this time of year when they can send their children back to their poorly paid daycare providers.
To the students on the other hand it is the removal of freedom that so depresses their spirits. No longer can they sleep in, no longer can they play into the night without having to worry about homework or the evil tasks put upon them by the demonic creatures who call themselves "teachers." Eight hours a day of forced learning with a small amount of socializing to help prevent complete insanity.
Then on the other side of the store you will see some parents slowly shuffling along. Also looking at school supplies, many with children in their carts or walking beside them. But instead of the gleeful look that so many teachers have they have a dejected semi-solemn look. "What has caused the difference?" you may ask. And I will tell you.
The difference is that these dejected solemn looking parents instead of getting some peace and quiet in the month to come will, in just a few short weeks, will be gaining HUNDREDS of new kids that they will call their own. Kids that they will worry about, kids they will harass to get their homework done and turned in, kids in behalf of which they will spend hours exploring every way possible to keep 35-40 children at a time entertained for 8 hours a day. Kids which they will care about and create hopefully mentoring relationships with.
Don't misunderstand me. Most teachers love what they do or they wouldn't still be in the profession! Since we know it isn't for the money. There is a saying that most teachers believe and it is that if you cannot laugh at least one time a day at what your students do, you are in the wrong profession.
I have a few rules that I like to remind myself of frequently as the year is beginning and they are:
1. The students are just as excited as you are that summer is over (I'm being sarcastic). Try not to kill them the first day with a disclosure document five miles long!
2. Remember that there are fun days, and there are also hard days, but focus on the ones that go well. One bad day doesn't negate all the good ones even though after the 7th period from hell it may feel that way.
3. You are amazing. Don't let some snot nosed 8th grade boy going through puberty and trying to impress his friends tell you otherwise. (Now if your principal tells you otherwise you may want to listen).
4. They are just kids, especially for middle school teachers, remember that they miss recess just as much as you did when you were in Junior high.
5. No matter how many times you say please don't do this and please don't do that, someone is going to stick a pencil up their nose, some one is going to ask you the question you just answered 3 times, and someone is probably going to make you want to send them to the basement torture chamber that you wish the school had.
But remember, its just a pencil and at least it is their nose and not yours just don't ask for the pencil back, you may sound like a parrot but at least you know you have taught them to ask questions, and even though they don't have the torture chamber you can always imagine what it would be like if they did.
Remember school is not the 9th circle of hell. 8th grade is one step above that, it could be worse :)