Wednesday, April 25, 2012

my unwanted acquaintance, part 4

As soon as she said "first grade", my heart sank a little.

Um, I don't LIKE first grade. They don't know how to do anything. They can't sit still. They don't know how to read. They barely remember to raise their hands. It's not their fault. They're just 6. They deserve a teacher who is good with that age group and has a ton of patience.

Buuuut, I was desperate for a job. And I didn't think I'd find one anywhere else. And I wanted my own classroom more than anything.

So I accepted.

I spent the WHOLE summer getting my classroom ready. Everyday I drove the 50 minutes to school, put on some music, and spent the day making it mine. I remember laughing as I put up the alphabet, colors, and shapes on my walls (that horrible interview!) And then I'd drive the 50 minutes home. As September got closer, I began to get more and more excited.

This is really happening.

I have my own classroom.

I am a full-fledged bona fide teacher!

A couple days before school started, the kids and their parents came to school to meet the teacher, find their desk, etc. I was nervous but also stoked. One step closer to my dream coming true. But something was striking me as strange as the day went on. I had an...interesting class. One kid got held back and was doing first grade over again. He was a foot taller than every other kid and didn't look or talk to me, almost defiantly. I could tell he'd be a hand-full. A parent came up and told me I'd have a girl in my class whose mom had DIED the week before. "So just be prepared for that," she said. Um, how do you prepare for that? I felt so bad for that little girl and I hadn't even met her yet! Two different parents pulled me aside and told me their children had learning disabilities. I noticed a few other kids acting like they had ADHD. Good lord, this is my class. What am I doing!? I wish I had fourth graders...

As soon as the kids and their parents left, feelings of anxiety started coming over me. Now everyone has normal bouts of anxiety. Going up the ramp of a rollercoaster. When you're about to take a test. Getting on a stage and speaking in front of a crowd. But this was a different type of anxiety. It was overwhelming. My heart was beating so fast, it was like I could feel it through my chest. I had a hard time breathing. My arms started feeling all tingly. Waves of panic started rising.

Breathe, Sarah, breathe. You can do this. This is what you went to school for.

But the anxiety wouldn't go away. I went home that night and couldn't eat dinner. And then I didn't sleep that night. Not. One. Wink. This happened for the next 3 days. I couldn't eat or sleep. The anxiety was constant and like a huge knot in my stomach. I was freaking out. This had never happened to me before.

I dreaded the first day of school. I had expected normal first day jitters. But this was way beyond that. I was a wreck. How was I going to get through the day? How could I teach the whole year feeling like this? I don't even know what I'm doing! How do you teach kids to READ!?!?

The first day was a blur. I remember introducing myself. I remember showing them around the classroom. I remember seeing them squirm in their "big kid" seats. I remember feeling out of control. I remember shaking and having a hard time talking. I remember kids with behavior issues acting up and many moments of chaos. I remember not smiling. I remember the constant anxiety that was threatening to overtake me.

I cried the whole way home. This was horrible. My whole LIFE had been working toward this moment. And I hated it. I was a horrible teacher. Yes, this was my sleep deprivation and empty stomach talking in my head, but I felt it nonetheless. I couldn't imagine going through a whole year feeling like this. I was beyond scared.

Another sleepless night.

The second day was even more of a blur.

I felt so alone. The 2 other first grade teachers never reached out to me. They were busy with their own classes. The principal who hired me had gotten fired and the new principal was (I think) a teacher the year before, so he had no idea what he was doing. I was alone. With a really hard class. Of 6 year olds. I did not know what I was doing.

After the second day of school I went to my parents' house. I hoped that by being in a familiar place it would comfort me and I'd finally get a good night's sleep. I cried the whole way to their house. What was wrong with me?! I tried to eat that night and could swallow a few bites. I could see my parents were worried about me. I looked awful.

Another night of no sleep.

At 4:30 in the morning, I walked into my parents' room, crying like a 3 year old who had a nightmare. My dad woke up and we spoke briefly. He and I got dressed and he drove me to the school. At 7:30, I walked into the principal's office with puffy eyes and my father by my side. The principal looked surprised to see us, but motioned for us to sit. We sat. I took a deep breath. And then I looked the principal right in the eyes.

"Mr. Dawson, I wanted to let you know that I am resigning, effective immediately."

End of Part 4.

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