Chapter 1 – Remember to Breathe

I felt like such a fraud. There I stood in front of my very first class, and I was panicked about the simple act of taking roll for first period on the first day of school. What if I pronounced their names wrong? What if I marked the attendance wrong? What if a little 6th grader was in the wrong class? What if I forgot one of the many pages of announcements? Those smiling faces expected me to be competent, and all I felt was shaky. I took a deep breath and smiled.

As it happened, I did mess up everything except for the child in the wrong class. That would happen later. But the lesson I learned would be critical to surviving my first year and some tough years since. Remember to breathe. When I couldn’t imagine how I would acquire enough bricks and toilet paper rolls to build Stonehenge, when I was so overwhelmed by paperwork that one more e-mail made me sob, when I sat in the hospital cafeteria waiting for the results of my toddler’s neurology tests, a deep breath would restore some balance, a little sanity, and enough strength to get me through five more minutes.

It’s not until you teach, that you are suddenly faced with everything they forgot to cover in your teacher prep program. You may have had an inkling that you would clean up blood, tears, urine, and vomit. But no teaching program prepares you to deal with the little girl who rolls her eyes the second she meets you, the boy who teaches everyone to shoot staples across the room, the girl whose rages get so intense that she has her own corner of the classroom, the bullies who sneak into your room during recess to stuff a desk with leaves, the children who are so hungry that they double over for an hour before lunch, the girl who hides under her bedroom desk when her father hits her mother, the homeless child who has attended school for two days in six months but shows up for state tests, and your own daughter who so wants your attention that she puts your mouse on timeout. This is all your responsibility now. You will get frustrated, you will get angry, you will cry, you will not sleep, you will agonize between continuing your carefully crafted lesson plan and dealing with the situation. You may even wonder if you have chosen the right profession. Buy yourself a moment of sanity. Remember to breathe.

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