The night before the first day of school… through the eyes of a teacher mama.

Tomorrow I will greet 20-something smiling, nervous, excited, apprehensive, familiar, or new individual children at our classroom door.

Tomorrow this space will be filled with life as little people with big minds begin exploring.

Tomorrow we start our nine month journey together through 1st grade, a journey I feel is one of the most precious to have together.

Tomorrow is the first day of another chapter of their childhood and the first day of my 11th year in the classroom. Through my experiences so far, I have learned that tomorrow will likely be the most tiring day of our school year. We will spend time getting to know one another, reinforcing the concept and feeling that school is a safe place to make mistakes and grow, and we will begin to establish routines and procedures to create a secure and predictable daily structure to support our learning.

Many things have happened to make sure that tomorrow is the best tomorrow it can be. Families have been busy preparing their children for the switch to more structure and routine as the summer comes to a close. School supplies have been bought, clothes purchased or pulled out from hand-me down bins, and backpacks picked. Families around town are making sure that baths and bedtimes happen. This is not true for all children who walk through our doors tomorrow. I will see them, as my heart is always looking for the children who might need a little more. I will make it a point to be their first hug tomorrow morning and encourage them that today is going to be a great day.

Families have been preparing their children for the switch back to school, while teachers have been preparing their learning environments. Everything about our space has been intentionally created and placed by the teachers. Teachers hope to have a space that fosters a love of community, shared learning, and the ability to grow. Teachers all over our wonderful town have been  volunteering their time in their classrooms throughout August getting their spaces ready. This is after maintenance staff have been working tirelessly to clean, tile, and build-on to our facilities to prepare for the upcoming year.

Each teacher is an individual and brings their own experiences and perspective to the classroom. I have always had a strong love for teaching and focus on the individuals who enter our door. Since becoming a mother, this focus has become such a driving force in everything that I do. This past year, after having our 3rd and last baby, my heart struggled with the guilt of feeling as though I should be a stay-at-home-mom, and that fire in my heart for being in the classroom, developing relationships with students, and creating opportunities to make our great schools even better. Our oldest will be in our school system next year, which means we are one year away from having the district vision and choices directly impact my children. We have an incredible district, with great teachers and we are headed in great direction. I want to be part of this district vision because all students deserve to have great schools, but 100% selfishly, my children also deserve to have great schools. While I am not at home with them now, I am working endlessly to make sure that I am doing my part to make sure that our district is the very best it can be, because my babies are going to be impacted by the choices made today.

I have been preparing my mind for tomorrow all summer. In fact, this summer looked different than most “two teacher parent” summers, as both my husband and I are pursuing our K-12 Principal Licenses, and have both taken on additional responsibilities to help support making our great district even better. As we have taken on these extra time commitments, it means that we have sacrificed some family time. While I will always struggle with this balance, I can see the benefits of our sacrifice when my daughter says to me “Mama, you are a teacher. You help kids learn.”  Or after a meeting in which we are supporting new teachers, she says “Mama, you helping teachers so we can learn more?” She gets it. She knows why I am doing what I am doing. I have also learned the value of quality time vs. quantity time. We have not had an overabundance of time together this summer, but I have tried so hard to appreciate the quality time. I watched my children dance in their Christmas jammies, on the last day of summer break, soaking in their childhood and this moment we have together. I have played in their “tree house.” I have taken many mama-A trips to the store and wandered the aisles. I have taken our sweet boy on mama-W bike rides and let him pick our path. I have held our sweet baby girl, who is on her way to walking, and tried to keep her small. I notice what my babes are doing and how they have grown, and it pulls at my heart that I may not have soaked it in as much as I should, but I really do not know if it is possible to ever feel that you have done this enough. I wrote a blog before called, Did I love enough today, and really, two years later, I do not know that I can ever fully answer this.

Our Church did a several week study about God’s gifts last year. Through this, we talked about how God gives everyone a different gift or purpose. I needed that reminder and needed to be at peace with the realization that my gift is education. I have so much passion and drive for education, best-practice, and supporting individual children to grow into the best versions of the “me they want to be.” In the schools is where I need to be. It is where I am meant to be. So, tomorrow, I will kiss my three babies good-bye for the day, put them in the extremely capable hands of the women who have been a gift to our family, and know that they are safe and loved, so that I can go to school and focus loving and supporting other children grow into people with strong character, the ability to read and understand what they read, the ability to understand how numbers work, and the ability to write in a way that clearly communicates their thoughts, feelings, and stories.

Teachers across our globe have the same gift and will make the same choice to kiss their own children good-bye for the day and head into the classrooms tomorrow. Teachers know what a gift it is for parents to send their most precious people to them for most of their child’s waking hours. Teachers want the best for their students and lay awake at night trying to figure out how to best support each individual child. Teachers also know that many of the students coming through their door will need much more than support in academic content, but that some children need advocates to help them get their basic needs met. Teachers know that some children come from very supportive, loving families, but teachers also know that some children do not. Teachers make sure that they are those children’s biggest cheerleaders.

Tomorrow, as children, families, and school staff head back into the schools, know that this year is going to be great! Children are going to be loved, supported, and grow more than you can imagine. Families are going to find support in the school and feel as though they are a team with their child’s teacher. School staff will work together as a team to ensure that students have a safe, supportive, and effective learning environment.

It has to be great! What we do has to matter…because this is what I tell my babies as I kiss them good-bye each morning, starting again tomorrow.