I have been consumed with doubt about my first day of school (which is tomorrow). This doubt feels heavier to me than the doubt of years past. This doubt feels consuming. It has dampened my usual excitement for the start of the school year.
Most years, I worry that I will not be good enough. Most years, I worry that my first days of school will not set the exact right tone. Most years, I worry that my kids won’t be excited about the work we have ahead of us. Most years, I worry that every child will not feel seen, will not feel heard, will not feel loved for who they are within the first few days of the school year.
But this year. It is even more than that.
This summer has been heavy. To be honest, part of me never quite healed after hearing about the mass shooting in Orlando and then about the continued killing of young, black men and women by police officers. These stories changed me. Made the world seem more cruel. Made our situation seem more desperate somehow.
And that has made the weight of our work seem so heavy. And so huge. And so important.
And I think that underneath that weight, I have crumbled a little bit. Because our job seems more important to me than ever and I also feel more inadequate than ever do the work that is required. There is so much in this world that needs fixing and I feel a desperation to help my students learn how to fix it.
But what I have been trying to remind myself is that we can not set out to change the world on day one. Because changing the world is scary. It is hard. It requires risk and vulnerability and the belief that we are in this together. And we do not feel that and we are not ready for that right from the start.
Before we start to change the world, first we must grow love and community within the walls of our classroom.
Before we start to change the world, we must trust those around us to stand by us and with us as we carry the heavy things that we are likely to uncover as we look critically at the world around us.
Before we start to change the world, we must feel as if we are worthy enough, capable enough, smart enough to do the difficult work ahead of us.
Before we start to change the world, we must know that there is goodness and kindness and laughter left that make this world worth saving.
Before we start to listen to and learn from the stories of those around the world, we first need to learn to listen to and learn from each other and our own stories.
Before we take on the pain in the world, we must first experience joy together.
Before we tackle the injustice and inequity that surround us, we must first believe that in this classroom we will work every day to ensure equity and justice for everyone learning here.
Before we learn to ask whose voices are not being heard in our world, we must first believe that in this classroom everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice will be respected.
Before we fight against hate and intolerance, we must first know that love and acceptance exist here.
And these things take time.
So tonight. I will breathe. I will remember that we must learn to love and trust each other first and then we can get busy changing the world. One school year is not a long time, but it gives us many days within which to do the work that we need to do. So these days, these first days of the school year, we need to take care of ourselves first. We need to build the foundation that will sustain us through the challenging work that lies ahead. We need to ensure that each child feels loved. And then, and only then, can we begin to change the world.