Second Day / Second Year

I still cannot believe I am in my second year as an international teacher. Even more wild is this is my eighth year in a classroom! The second year means familiarity and comfort. The newness and nerves are no longer present. I know the routine and most of the kids. I have an established place in the community. I know where to get supplies and how to set up the grade book and when the lunch bell will ring. I am now the one helping the new people figure out the crazy Friday schedule and showing people how to find the sign-up sheet for the computers. It’s the second year and I am an expert after all.

The summer (well, in our case winter) break is over. Kids file back in looking refreshed and tired at the same time. Hands raise at assembly when the principal asks “who went to Europe, Asia, the US…” and I realize these kids lives are unlike any from my previous school. Even my breaks have changed. I am no longer drained after 18 days in Europe with 20+ students. This time my vacation was completely my own and my travel was solo. This year the US was another place to visit instead of a return home. This year it’s dark and cold outside and kids walk into school with jackets and scarves at the beginning of the new school year. But it’s the second year, and I have gone through all of this before.

The classroom is set up the way I want it to be. Desks face each other and I am mindful of who talks to whom, and who needs to be by my desk. I know who needs to be partnered with this kid in order to be challenged. I know when I need to crack the whip and when I need to let it all go. My diplomas are permanently hung on the wall now (although we had a little fall mishap with one), the posters are semi staying on the wall, and my desk is back to looking like I raided Toys-R-Us.  The shoes come off and students don’t even bat an eye because they know that I’m just a little bit nutters and I don’t like shoes. It’s the second year and kids greet me with hugs and smiles verses side-eyes and mistrust.

The tenth grade walks in. These are my babies and they know it. They have also been warned that Ms. Coyle doesn’t play around this year. There are 18 of them in one class, and since this my second year at this, 18 seems like a lot and structure and discipline is key. Gone are the days when 35 in a class was manageable.  The boys have all grown, the silliness has subsided a bit and it’s no longer cool to sit in the downstairs flex space in the morning. Those lame freshmen are there after all. One student tells me I have changed and seem more put together. Ha! Well, my dear, it’s the second year.

My juniors…now Seniors file in. They are fresh and ready to go. They are also terrified because they have heard the letters “I and A” in every class. They have lost a few big personalities and leaders in their class and now have to figure out who is going to take their places. They know it’s crunch time. They see the end. Even those who were on the struggle bus last year seem willing and ready to face this year. They are the top dogs now and there are little smirks on their faces that say, “let’s see what we can get away with.” Little do they know that it’s the second year and those smirks will be gone in a month, replaced by frowns and frustration.

My new juniors are lovely! But there are only two of them in the class. It was so nervous at first…how in the world was I going to fill 95 minutes and still make the class interesting. But our first day went really well, and I really like the two. They are wildly mature and astute. It’s like having a literature discussion with two adults. Although we are going to have to figure out some dynamics here and there, (after all, the second year can’t all be familiar) I have hope for our little class of two.

I meet my first class of freshmen. Then my second on the second day. They are the last class of the day, everyday. I anticipated craziness and immaturity because this is the second year and I dealt with freshmen last year who turned my hair gray. And yes, there is a bit of crazy and immaturity here and there, but they are lovely. They are silly and weird, trying to swim in the river of high school. It will all change for them quicker than they can even imagine. But they work hard and ask questions and participate. They make the end of the day fun. It’s the second year and my reputation has preceded me.

I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open in carpool. And my mouth is dry from giving information and directions for two days. My word quota has been met for the week. But I know that this is going to be a good year because it is the second year and I am always better with some experience. I think part of me made this move across the world for this exact feeling: I needed the unfamiliar and chaotic to get out of my complacent rut, but I also needed this year to start just as it had to realize I can become part of a new community. I can have a second year and perhaps a third and fourth. And they will all be just fine.

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