What Teachers are Thinking on the First Day

Yes, we put on our newest pair of khaki pants that we picked up at Old Navy’s half off sale over the weekend. We have a few new shirts that we are planning to blaze through in the first two days. And our classrooms are clean for the first five minutes, a state to which they will not completely return until next year at this time.

I know folks, we look like we have ourselves together. But here are a few things we are actually thinking on the first day of school.





I have done this for _____ amount of years before, which means I have taught well over ____ amount of classes. Each teacher can fill this in differently. For me, I have done this for 8 years, over 1400 days, and about 7500 individual class periods. So why did I still have to nervous poop 4 times this morning?

“Don’t worry kids, I always shake uncontrollably to the point that I can’t really hold my coffee without looking like I have some kind of degenerative muscle disorder.”

Oh shit, maybe I do have a degenerative muscle disorder. Is that why I pooped a lot today? I recognize that you might be uncomfortable with all this poop talk, but even writing this gives me that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me want to stop all this and go to the bathroom.




Ok, since everyone told us the first day matters so much, I’m trying to be the perfect balance of strict, funny, cool, scary, and engaging. I should stand up on the teacher desk and recite “Oh Captain, My Captain” like in Dead Poets Society. But then kids would think I am that fun every day, and I don’t think I have the stamina to jump on tables for the next 179 days. Plus, would they actually remember what I was saying, or just remember that I was the weird guy who jumped on the table? What was I saying? Oh, yeah.

“Class, I’m going to read over this extremely boring syllabus for the next 20 minutes. But I’ll try to make interesting by occasionally inserting a bad joke or having an ill-timed flash of excitement. Sound good? Any questions? Ok. Next slide”

There are few words I can think of that make me more bored than “next slide.” I’ve been waiting for the last 15 years for our society to evolve past power points. I’m starting to lose patience.




Crap. It is just dawning on me that forgetting to eat or sleep for the last day may have been a terrible oversight. The room is starting to spin. I should sit down. This can’t be good. But if an administrator would walk in on the first day and I was sitting down and shaking that would be a bad look. I’ll just lean uncomfortably on one of the desks. Oh wait, there is no open desks. I have 35 kids in here and only 33 desks.

“Sorry again about the floor, Isaiah. That kind of sucks.”




I think the pants I bought are too tight. Seriously- what 34 year old wears pants that are this tight? I somehow ended up working myself into a khaki version of male jeggings. I’m not that old, but I remember a time when my pants weren’t stretchy. Is everybody wearing stretchy pants? I’ll look around and try to determine how many of my colleagues have stretchy pants on today. Then I'll figure out that I should have went with the pleated dockers from Kohl's that look like the pants my Grandpa used to wear. Oops. 




Be in the hallway until the bell rings, teach bell to bell, write passes using the special blue clipboard (where the hell is my clipboard?), get control of your room, be relational, don’t smile too much, have the standard on your board, have 13 other things on your board for each of your 5 classes, no kid should sleep, take attendance in the first 5 minutes, relax, have fun, give this assessment in the first week, use the positive behavior matrix, make sure you do an exit ticket, and a warm-up, do some group work, individual work, and some partner time, use this data and that data, use your own data, be responsive, malleable, and hold a high standard, turn in your lesson plans, print this, the printer is jammed, fix it or feel like an ass, give yourself a break to feel like an ass because it is the first day.

I’ve reached the point in my day when all of the information-juggling that I have been managing thus far is falling apart. It’s not making sense anymore. Makes me feel a little bad for those last two periods of the day.

“Hi kids, Wanna read a syllabus?”




I wake up in my desk chair after realizing that I dozed off sometime after the final bell rang. I try to imagine finding the strength to do 179 more of these. In this very moment, I’m not even sure that I have the energy to get home for dinner, a shower, some time with my family, a hard-earned glass of wine and sleep. But I’ll make it there, I do every year. I just might have to apologize to my wife next week for being in a sort of anxiety coma for the first week. But I’m a teacher, my wife is used to apologies.  


This is my 9th first day of school as a teacher. For all the effort and anxiety that I pour into the day, it always ends as just a day. Frankly, it is usually even a boring day with lots of administrative tasks and obligatory instructions. The school year will be a long and spectacular ride full of moments where I feel like I am probably messing this up somehow. Eventually, I will start to get the stamina I need to think a lot more about my students learning and a lot less about the skinniness of those Old Navy khakis.