As the first few middle school kids trickle in, you would do well to reflect on the moment. This is a time to dwell on what you are about, a time to look beyond your classroom management challenges. Put aside those concerns about them liking you or what to do if you can’t handle a rowdy kid. Never mind that you are getting less money than if you had been an engineer. You are about to shape the lives of kids you don’t yet know. As Christa McAuliffe, the teacher-astronaut who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, said, “I touch the future, I teach.” You are their contact with the world beyond their own. They will learn much from you, far more than is in your curriculum and far more than most will ever let on. Most will remember you for the rest of their lives. It may be hard to see from the trenches, but you have chosen one of the most important jobs there is.
For them, the moment is filled with a rush of emotions. Do you remember what it was like to be a new teenager? I do. Somehow I was no longer a child but, deep inside I knew nothing had changed. Would I be up to it? Starting a new grade is to be a little more grown up. Your new students expect things to be a bit harder, a little more serious. There is no structure yet – just the unknown. Watch as they come in. When they cross the threshold, there is a slight hesitation as they look about for a friend, anyone familiar.
For you the moment is filled with anxiety, too. Most will not look at you, so you’ll feel awkward saying hello. Then they will sit in the back, anywhere but the front row. You’ll probably be thinking they don’t like you. That’s not it at all. Actually, they are worried that you and the other students won’t like them.