Teacher talk: Preparing for the start of the school year

Posted: Friday, August 19, 2005

I did something unusual this summer - I stayed in Juneau. Some teachers work in the summer, some travel, many take classes, and some even teach over the break. For several years, I kayaked away my days from June to August. As of late, I have hit the road to see America. This summer, I stayed home to relax, reduce my relatively high, self-induced stress level, and chip away at my house. It has been a good summer.

But a teacher always knows when it is time to return to the classroom. For me the feeling starts in my gut. At first, the back-to-school ads make me queasy, and then I actually scan them for items I know I will need later. Students walk by my house, and I engage them in conversation rather than dive for the bushes.

My dog's education suddenly takes on a whole new meaning in my life. For a teacher, at least this one, teaching is part of who you are. You need to teach, even if the task is to teach your dog how to fetch your socks and not eat them.

This summer, I let this feeling of change pick me up and carry me to today. Now the wave is crashing all around me. School starts next Wednesday, as you probably know, and teachers are ready to welcome that youthful energy back into their lives.

Every school year is a story or a novel unto itself. This year, my 10th year in the classroom, I have decided, through this column, to share a few stories about my experiences as a teacher. My goal is to write twice a month and tap into some of the observations I make in my daily work.

In the past, Teacher Talk was written by many staff members across the district. Let me invite any teacher, administrator or member of the support staff of the Juneau School District to contact me at gervaism@jsd.k12.ak.us to share experiences through this column.

Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, teaching styles and personalities. The goal is to have a diverse enough staff to give each student a better chance to connect with at least one adult throughout the year.

I am solely responsible for the content of my column, though I am only one small voice among the powerful staff that is rallying together to kick this school year off right. So go out and buy your new school clothes. Get your new school haircut, but most of all, go to the store and buy that pack of 500 pencils. You'll need them.

• Mary-Lou Gervais is a math teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School.

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