When I was in elementary school, back to school time was rough for me. I mean, I’m sure I loved learning, but I always remember being anxiety ridden because a new school year meant change.
New teacher – and I had just bonded with my previous teacher, and now no more! New classroom – everything is in a different place, how far are the bathrooms? Where do I put my stuff? New classmates – are any of my friends even in this class with me? No? Just great. Are the bullies in this class? Is my teacher a bully?
(Yes, my 4th grade teacher bullied me. It exists. And I’ve even seen it in recent years as an adult…)
When I transitioned to middle school, I was much happier. We changed classes every 40 minutes or so, so I was never with one teacher or group of kids for too long. I had more chances to be in a class with friends, and I was quite often, even if it was just Phys Ed or music.
I was still bullied, but it was easier to escape as each bell rang. I also started to love learning and reading. Some of that is probably attributed to the Harry Potter series actually. As I’ve mentioned before, when I started 5th grade, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone finally hit popularity in my neck of the woods. I started having “favorite teachers” who were always around, no matter what grade I was in. They were there for me to visit them during lunch or after school, always. 6th grade English teacher and 6th grade scial studies teacher? I kept in touch with them until I graduated high school – I even did my Senior Service “internship” in their classrooms.
We had already learned all of the basics in elementary school, so now we could expand on our learning. I loved it. Back to school time no longer meant anxiety over change, but instead anticipation (the good kind. Like when Doctor Frank’n’furter says “antici…….pation!”) and growth.
High school really makes or breaks a person. I think that, for the most part, high school broke me, and I spent most of college gluing the pieces together again.
So, back to school feelings in high school were mixed. On one hand, I was thrilled to get out of the house and go back to learning. But, my social life did not grow in high school and I was still the outsider. Really, really an outsider. I was bullied in younger grades for reasons I will never know, so instead of not knowing why, I gave people a reason to dislike me.
I followed no rules, laws, or even mere guidelines of fashion. I constantly wore my head phones to shut out the world and appear a little tougher, a little darker (Yeah, I was sooooo dark listening to Evanescence in my Walkman). I collected spooky things (I still think they’re kind of cute, honestly). I sulked and stalked the hallways.
I grew out of this by senior year, when people realized who I really was. Some people told me that they were actually scared of me in previous years. I guess I had accomplished my goal, but I was no stronger for any of it.
So how did I survive? English class was always a highlight of my life, every year, no matter who the teacher. Going into sophomore year, I heard that I was going to have the bomb history teacher. I looked forward to that, and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that this teacher would indeed help me get through the year. He cared about his students, had a sense of humor, told stories, made history relevant to current times (I know, I know. History is always relevant but it was always my weakest subject), drew comics on the board, played review games with us, and let us listen to hip music during classwork time.
The real reason I was ever excited to return to another year of high school?
My music department. The choir teacher was my angel, my best friend, and my mom-away-from-home. The choir room was my safe haven. Sure, I wasn’t friends with everyone in the department, and even some of my “enemies” and “bullies” were there, but there was something harmonious about the room (wait… oh. What did I just say. I didn’t mean to pun that sentence up, I swear) that kept us all from killing each other.
The teacher had a serious, vested interest in our day-to-day lives and where we were going, or how we were growing up. I didn’t just learn about music, but I learned about life and myself. I no longer sing (I’m really not good at it), but I still cherish every lesson that I learned.
I spent all my free periods in that room, and I spent countless after school hours waiting for a ride or just hanging out in that room. When I made my triumphant return this past school year, that wonderful choir teacher excitedly showed every one of my new pals from the musical all of my favorite places to sit. “She would sit right there by the folders, or right here by the piano. We’re so happy to have her back!” I had such a strong bond with her, the room, and the class, that I always looked forward to choir first out of everything in the school year.
What else came with the music department? The aforementioned, often mentioned, wonderful all-school musical. We didn’t audition until after Thanksgiving, but I waited all summer for it. I really did. My first two years of high school were the worst for me, in terms of self-esteem, I suppose, because I never auditioned. I was always an usher, a painter, and a helper. Junior year, I finally auditioned and made it in. It was the best experience of my life.
To be honest, I miss it so much still, even though I’m involved again. The memories of Musical are so positive and so strong that they could probably produce my Patronus. No, they definitely could. It would be a really strong Patronus produced by memories of group bonding and hand games, the thrill of performing, the laughs during dance rehearsal, more life lessons learned from the choir teacher during music rehearsal, and my triumphant return for Urinetown.
Back to school in high school clearly meant Back To Music for me. I miss it, still, sometimes.
In college, back to school was yet again something different from my previous years. I was more myself than I had ever been before, and college was the highlight of my social life. I made new friends and had no fren/enemies (not until junior year at least). Back to school at college meant getting back to my friends, who I never saw during the summer, and back to my freedom.
My mom runs a tight ship, and as an adult, I’m thankful for that because it put me on the right track, but it was exhausting. (Still is sometimes, but I love you mom). Back to school was freedom and a return to familiar faces and routines.
If Elementary School Allyssa had gone to college, she would have hated it. A new dorm every year. New schedule. New People. Too much newness, every year. But for Almost Adult Allyssa? Perfection. A breath of fresh, crisp, new air every year was what I always needed.
Yet, I still looked forward to reoccurring and annual events (WWW, Ho Ball [kind of], 4 shows a semester, finals week [yes, I liked it, it was fun minus the exams], FAP, etc), because I like routine. I often took classes with the same professors over and over again because, like my choir teacher, I needed a mentor who would be a constant support me during my four years (I never really found one, though I did get close. Damn, my choir teacher is STILL my role model and mentor).
College had the perfect balance of sameness and newness to keep me satisfied. I still miss it.
Back To School – Adult Edition
I don’t know when I’m going to start going in, but the new school year is upon us and I am more excited than ever before. My kids start today, but I most likely won’t start having hours in the department until the Fall Drama really kicks into gear.
Back to school as an adult participant in education means that I get to return to being a mentor. I like to think of it as paying it forward. I had an extraordinary mentor in my choir teacher, and I aspire to be like her every single day of my existence.
So far, I have mostly succeeded. I may not be a full time, bona fide teacher yet, but I work closely enough with my kids that I feel that I am pretty close.
Kids reach out to me through email or through my “Teacher Twitter” on a regular basis, even in the summer. Kids come to me during their free periods, lunches, or after school hours just to talk about life, or school, or work.
The best part of going back to school is that I work with the same kids every year. Most teachers only see their kids for one school year. I follow the same kids their entire 3-4 years of high school (Yeah 3, long story), just like my choir teacher, who got to work with us every year that we chose to take choir. My kids are bonded into my program (it’s their major, so they can’t drop out of theatre even if they tried), so I see them change and grow with each school year. It’s magical to see it from this side.
Of course, each year I get to meet a new group of 30 freshmen, who I will begin to form a bond with as soon as possible. I get butterflies the first day that I meet them. I love the rush, the introductions, and even the embarrassment of trying to learn their names. I work so closely with the freshmen every year that we have no choice but to get along. Whether they choose to utilize me as a mentor or not is up to them, but I will always be there for them if they desire.
So happy first week of school to my kids (who will never see this, and if they do, they have either long graduated or are really good detectives), and I can’t wait to see you.
We’re going to make magic this year.