Feels Like the First Time

September 2, 2009 | Blog

Cross-posted from Brainstorm

Every fall for the last 29 years I’ve embarked on a new school year. No joke–for nearly my entire life the arrival of September has meant one thing: back to the classroom.

Yet this time feels entirely new, nerve-wracking, and yes, I’m nail-biting. Why? Two big reasons. First, it’s the first year I’m sending my own child off to school. My son Conor begins preschool next Tuesday in a Waldorf program. So this year instead of simply looking forward to my own class schedule or preparing lectures for my students, I’m trying to get ready for his new principal, teacher, and classroom.

Want to bring an otherwise confident, competent professor to her knees? Put her face-to-face with a preschool teacher who disagrees with her. I may know something about something, but I’m no early childhood expert. I have instincts, and I have no idea what they’re grounded in. So when Conor’s teacher tells me the parents aren’t allowed to stick around on the first day of school, I find myself saying “yes ma’am” even though every inch of me wants to scream “yeah right!” I have no idea how to enforce my desire to make sure he’s ok, happy and acclimated before slipping out the door. Faced with Mrs. Preschool Teacher, I fold like a deck o’cards.

As for the other reason this is such a new year– it’s the first time I’ve got reason to fear my students. Normally I pooh-pooh medical hysteria, and try to ignore talk of epidemics. But this swine flu thing is no joke for pregnant ladies– it can kill. And not only do I have a preschooler and a heavy schedule of air travel this fall, but I’m to spend a bunch of time among undergraduates. If the average healthy adult stands a 1 in 2 chance of contracting H1N1, what are my odds? They sure feel like 1 in 1.

So, I’ll enter class tomorrow with a bunch of trepidation, afraid of coughs and sniffles. Hopefully, we’ll get a good discussion rolling and I’ll put it out of my mind, trusting everyone to stay home if they don’t feel well. Fear doesn’t set the stage for much fun or learning.

Another September, another back-to-school. I hope others are off to a better start.

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