When I would race my niece and nephew back when they were younger, I’d give them a head start. I’d give them a few strides ahead of me, and then I would pretend to pull a hamstring or trip and fall or just be horribly slow. They’d celebrate the win and I’d act bummed at the loss.
Everyone needs a win or two, and a few head starts here and there can build up momentum that can carry us through even the longest of marathons.
For teachers, marathons last 180 days, and a head start is the week of pre-planning. That’s this week. Teachers come in T-shirt and jeans, hair in a ponytail, tennis shoes on their feet. Some make several trips back and forth between their car and their classrooms, lugging supplies for the year, new artwork for their walls, and crates full of their summer ideas. Laminating machines heat up, copiers go low on toner, and paper cutters become dull as teachers scamper to get ready for the starting whistle.
Pre-planning is a favorite time of the school year for many teachers. Not only do we get to reconnect with our coworkers, but we see our rosters for the first time and begin to wrap our heads around the task at hand – to teach and mold and guide the kids behind the names. Those names become our focus, their stories our concern, and their potentials our target.
This week is our head start, and Lord knows we need one. On Monday when the buses start unloading and the halls start filling up, teachers will be glad they had this week to get a jump on the year. Because when the first bell rings, it’s full throttle, and if we weren’t a few paces ahead of the race, we’d be run over for sure.
These pre-planning days remind me of last year when Mrs. Moore at my school was told she would have to move classrooms due to construction. Mrs. Moore is a 30-year veteran teacher, and every one of those thirty years were taught in the same classroom. I’m still impressed she got it all done before her first period class walked through her doors.
In comical contrast, two doors down in each direction were two brand-new teachers. When they came to pre-planning, they had very little in tow — a few brand new posters from School Tools and some desk organizers they bought during the tax-free weekend. As the pro down the hall worked hard to unpack and reorganize 30 years of experience, these two spent the week trying to calm their first-year-teacher jitters and work up the nerve to face 175 teenagers.
I love pre-planning week. Sometimes I just walk the halls to be nosey and maybe steal some ideas from those smarter and more creative than I. Rejected furniture clutters the hallway for the pickers to peruse. The smell of lemon Clorox wipes and the sound of staplers against bulletin boards permeate, and the few who came during the summer to get their head start relax behind their desks with a look of “nanny-nanny-boo-boo-I’m-all-finished”.
But when Monday rolls around, all the moving and scurrying and laminating and copying and hot-gluing will be finished. Thousands of students will walk through the doors of pristine schools and into inviting classrooms teachers have spent many days to prepare. They will sit before well-prepared, excited teachers who have certainly taken advantage of their head start. And then, the race is on!