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First Day Jitters


I am really nervous about the first day of school. That’s what I keep thinking. I am very excited about this upcoming year, but I am really nervous about the first day of school. Every young teacher, I’m sure, worries and frets, anticipating that moment of first standing in front of the class. How will they see me? Will they respect me, or be laughing inside? What if they’re laughing outside?

I am a “young teacher”. Well, to be honest, I am almost 47 years old, and that’s not very young. But I am a new teacher, ready to begin only my second year in the classroom. In terms of experience, I am very young; green even. So I AM nervous, worried and fretful, and excited as I prepare for the first day of class.

With the beginning of this new school year, I have knowledge that gives me a huge advantage over the first-year teacher. I know people. I know procedures. I know a little bit about the curriculum and learning goals of the school system. I know all the programs and initiatives of my school. I even know a bit about students. I know who to call for help. I know when to cry for help.

But there is so much to learn still. To be a teacher you must be open to learning yourself. You must metacognitive - to use a teacher word - so you will recognize the learning opportunity each day, each moment, brings. You must seek out mentors who can teach you and are willing to share their great ideas. And you must share in return. Sometimes new teacher ideas are great ideas.

How am I preparing for that first day of school? I’m looking at my textbooks again, to refresh my memory of how each class begins. I’m studying the pacing guides we’re required to follow. I’m reading the newspaper each day to make sure I’m current on what’s happening in the world. I’m trying to sleep late, eat well, and get my positive energy flowing. I’m connecting with my fellow teachers, tapping into their positive energy flows. I’m trying to forget about being nervous, worried and fretful. I know that, ready or not, those students will arrive.


Good morning, Hanne.

I, too, am a career changer having gone from starched Army green to the softer prettier blues I prefer in 1994 when I was just beginnng the sixth decade of my life. Ten years have passed since then and I haven't regretted making the change at all.

The day I entered my first classroom I was greeted by an empty space. There was not so much as a piece of chalk in that room! When I asked about desks and chairs I was told that I'd have to go to the school warehouse! I don't think so! I told that administrator that I was the teacher-- fitting out the room was his job. And I think this exchange set the inter-personal ground rules for me as a teacher. By the time students arrived the following week, I was ready for whatever they brought with them.

I don't remember ever being nervous. I had a LOT of life experience behind me and I was very willing to share most of it with my 9th to 12th grade students. Doing so made my lessons in history and government relevant to their lives. The fact that I was also attending classes--and sharing that experience with them--put me in their shoes, boots, and flip-flops.

Most people want to learn and grow--we have to find the right hook to snare 'em and reel 'em in so we can reach them.

What grade(s) and subject(s) do you teach?

Here's to a wonderful new year for both of us.


I'm on year 2 as well. I'm approaching my 53rd birthday, raised 3 great kids, ran scout troops and I still get those knots in my stomach facing the kids in each of my classes. I have spent my free time, which seemed non-existent, this summer reading the new textbook I'll be using and writing lesson plans, worksheets and activities.
As nervous as I am at facing the first day, I am truly looking forward to seeing how I can be a positive force for the students in my charge. Don't worry, Hanne, you'll be great!

I can't wait to keep reading about your experience. At 47 I have finished 31 credits towards my MSE,LD and I have another year to go. Am I frightened to be in a classroom? You betcha! BUT, I remember never being able to get up in front of a group and speak without choking on my words, and my cohorts laugh at me when I tell them that as I stand before them practicing a lesson. Last year I taught 26 first graders how to write cinquain poetry. They loved it! And me! I was more thrilled than anyone could believe. No doubt we have life experience even though we are so unexperienced. Good Luck.

Hanne, I am so excited for you. I walked into my first classroom, also special education, at the 'advanced' age of 43. I raised six children, stayed at home with them and enjoyed that time of my life immensely. The day came, though, that I knew I wanted to teach (formally!). I have never regretted going back to school and finishing my degree. I love what I do. There are times when I think about how old I'll be when I retire - but I would get to that age whether I was teaching or not! I still get opening day jitters. I tend to be a little bit compulsive. I can afford to spend extra time at school because my kids are grown. I have life experience and more confidence than my younger colleagues - but they share their youthful enthusiasm and energy with me. It's a great trade off!

Congratulations to you and your school. You are both so lucky!

Hi Hanne,

I am 48 and have been teaching for five years. Every year, I can't sleep the night before school starts--its just such an exciting and hopeful time.

I hope you have a terrific year. My second year was a real boost in my confidence. Because I had been through the curriculum once, I didn't have to spend as much time on learning it with my students. I had more time to work on being more creative with my lessons and getting to know my students.

This year, I am on the other side of the teaching "fence". I have taken a leave of absence from my school so that I can get most of my masters out of the way. I really felt I would benefit from getting "more tools for my tool chest". I must admit though, I'm older than all but one of my professors. I'm also attending school with my daughter who is a sophmore at the same college. I really hopeful it will be an amazing and beneficial ride!

My hope for you is that you can really build a strong community in your classroom so your students can feel comfortable learning. I hope lots of "light-bulbs" come on for both you and your students this year.

Linda in AZ

Great first post Mom. I can't wait to read more as the year progresses. Good luck!


I am now 44 years of age, and live in the D.C. area.
For the first time in my life, I am now giving serious consideration to the notion of becoming a school teacher.
If you would email me, I would like to speak with you about the possibilities of such an endeavor.
I would sincerely appreciate hearing from any of the respondents to Hanne's posting, as well.

Cameron Scott
Alexandria, VA

Good luck!

I too was a career changer who started teaching English at forty-two. I had the first-day jitters every day for about three years. Still have them on the first day every year. I get frustrated with things sometimes, but I love my work and the kids keep me going. I'll be linking to your posts from time to time on my own blog. Hang it there.



Your comment about reading the textbook over the summer in order to get ready for the students this fall reminded me of something else:

I went out to my first school -- a 40 mile drive in commuter-clogged Northern Virginia-- early in the summer to get the texts I would be using. I was hired to teach English to 9th and 11th graders. No one at the school had any idea where the books were. So I left a brief congenial note indicating I would return the following week and hoped the books might be available.

I returned. The books were in the front office for me. No curriculum guide, of course, but that's OK I'm really good when it comes to literature and writing.

Eight weeks later. First day of school. I get my class lists. I see that I'm listed for World History 9 and U. S. Government 12. What's this? Someone has made a BIG mistake. I'm teaching ENGLISH. No. I'm not. I'm the new social studies teacher. The students arrive in 30 minutes.

Thankfully, the first day is mostly paperwork -- health papers, Rights and Responsibilities, emergency contact, etc. Should be syllabus, but who knew I'd be teaching social studies?

The year turned out to be fantastic, but no thanks to the principal. Not all the lessons were learned by the students.


I too am seeking a mid-life career change. I will begin my student teaching assignment sept.2
I will spend the first half with 2nd grade and then move on to 4th grade.
I am scared stiff!!! I am relieved to know I am not the only crazy lady, looking to be as my neice puts it- a "glorified babysitter". I have always wanted to teach. I so love the kids and I want to make a difference. I struggled as a student and my daughter is learning disabled. My experience as a mother of a LD child will pay off. I really have a heart for these kids. It is time to put all the research to work for these kids instead of labeling them, and shooting them out the door. I have aspirations of breaking through the cycle of learned helplessness in these kids, but at the same time fearful I may get the rug pulled out from under my feet or perhaps i am just a "dreamer". I fear the politics most, never-the-less,i continue to carry hope that i will find a district body who agrees with my philosophy.
Enough about my "stuff" Good luck to you and I hope the realization that you are not alone out there has helped you as much as it has helped me.
Vickie in Poolville, Tx.

I am also a in my second year of teaching second grade. I was so nervous my first year as well. I started my first year of college when I was your age and now I am 53 years old. I teach in an area where gangs and shootings are not uncommon. My students do not come to school ready to learn, just the opposite. I was told that I had every problem child in the second grade my first year. I think we must bring love, caring, values and the desire to learn with our students to the classroom. We are never to old to learn and I do this daily. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Most veteran teachers are more than willing to tell you what they know. Most people think we should teach only the academics, but we must teach to the needs of our students. I had to care, love, learn, and teach values daily. The students that I had last year know how to act in a classroom and they remember me, and what I taught them. I had a very respected teacher tell me that my students were doing great and that I did a wonderful job with them. I made a difference and I continue to try to make a difference daily. At our age we have much to offer. We have all of our life lessons to give and for most of us we have grown children. This is a plus, because we know children.
I suggest we love, care, learn, make a difference, and teach values daily along with our teaching of academics.
Good luck!

Hi Hanne and others,

I have great respect for all of going back to uni in some cases at a later stage in life. I am in my second year of uni at 49 doing my teaching degree in Australia, I have been a teacher aide for special needs children for 10 years and want to give more where possible. I love working with children and totally agree with Nancy in regard to having life experiences and being able to cope in situations that call for calmness.
I have enjoyed reading your messages and hope to hear from some of you in the future


Good on all of you for getting into teaching as 'mature students'. I don't know how some of the younger ones can manage without the life experiences we can bring into the profession. I am now 46 and I am from New Zealand. We needed extra teachers about ten years ago, so I decided on a career change to suit my young family. I recommend teaching to people who can multi-task, in the midst of a room of chatter (on-task of course!!), work many extra hours in preparation, and who love to see children being children. It is hard work, but can be most rewarding. Good on you, Hanne.

I also changed careers "late" in life. After 21 years on active duty, I became a JROTC Instructor in BLANK, and after twelve years, I'm ready to move on to someplace, or something, different. I don't have to tell many of you, that public education is broken. Layers, and layers of bureaucratic nonsense, make compliance mandatory, and teaching optional. Even after completing two additional graduate degrees, and working on a fourth, I continue to be perplexed by our "car wash" mentality of providing education services. Sometimes, I feel like I'm on a cattle drive. And let's not get started on student behavior. Last week, two handguns were taken away from students at two different high schools here, and five last year. While being in the military constituted an acceptable risk, I never thought there was a possibility of being shot because I told a student to take their seat. Anyway, teaching is a profession that eats it's own young. Next week, we start "trims," which means that the teachers with the least amount of seniority either get let go, or moved, usually to the worst schools. My advice to all you "newbies," is to stay current on the literature, work beyond the minimum expectations of your supervisors, and never, never, lay your purse down.

Good Luck!!!

I am just so impressed! What you are doing for students, for all us who have a passion for teaching and learning for every child regardless of their ability or disability provides hope and an opportunity to become more perfect at who we and they are...thank you

Reading these posted exerpts from teachers renew my faith in the profession. I, too, became a certified teacher later in life, after my child was in seventh grade. When he began kindergarten, I began substituting at his school. From the first day, I was hooked. I love the children; just the thought that I might help even one to succeed, to feel good about themselves, to know they can accomplish their goals, makes teaching worthwhile. Two years ago I received my Masters in Reading because of a specific need I saw in my students. I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life or ever retiring. A special thanks to everyone who responded to Hanne Denney for renewing my faith in the profession.

Hello Ms. Denney:
I enjoyed reading your post about preparing for your first day of school and your tenacious niece. It reveals your sincerity and seriousness as an educator, and was truly inspiring.
I am starting school tomorrow, as is my son. I'm entering the dual cert master's program at DePaul's school of Ed (elem. sp. ed) and he, the 8th grade at a CPS. Excited barely describes how I feel knowing that I am beginning my studies in the field of education, I'm ecstatic beyond words.
I was comforted by your post and all the other replies about first-day jitters and being humbled by being in the position of leadership to the young impressionable minds of students. Will look forward to more details about your experiences.

Have a great school year!
Chicago, IL

Hey Hanne-
It's terrific to share your emotions (and your emoticons!---great idea :>)
I look forward to hearing more from you, and remembering our great times last summer. Can you say "exhaustion"!
Way to go, RTC Girl!

I loved reading all the responses to your article.
Being 55, and having decided to return to teaching after over 30 years...I am now in the process of looking for a position...and feeling very vulnerable.
Having taught directly out of college for 5 years, and having my permanent certification with my Masters in Education makes me have confidence that I know eventually I will be hired.
My experience after teaching was very people oriented, as I was a Sales Executive, business to business in New York City, for over 24 years, selling Printing, and Promotional Products. Successful as I was in Sales, personal circumstances have caused me to change careers, so that I do not have to commute into the city.
My husband passed away 5 years ago, very suddenly, and we have a son, now 13 years old, who has learning disabilities.
If anyone has tips on approaching this challenge, they would be greatly appreciated.
I feel positive that this change will be a great one for me, and I look forward to making a difference in the lives of children, by offering a perspective in academics that will be flavored by my extensive real-life business experience.

At the age of 49 I am having zero luck returning to a teaching job. I have been a substitute in our district for 10 years while I was raising my family. Now that they are all in college I was hoping to return to the classroom. I have taken 18 hours of graduate credit to update my classroom skils. But, with a large pool of younger teachers in our area, I have little hope of landing a position. Being a mom has made me such a better teacher than I was when I was in my 20's. Any advice (I am working in the school as an educational assistant). Thanks.

I'm 41 and peparing for a second career as an ESL teacher. Formerly I had a technical career, so I feel quite "green." Sometimes I have been tempted to give up, until discovering your blog.

In grad school, there are many full-time teachers who are younger and more experienced than I am in teaching. They are adding theory to practice, while I will be embarking upon practice after studying theory. At first, I felt like I could never be a "real teacher" like my classmates who are continuing their first careers. But now, after exposure to your blog, I feel lucky to study theory and observe classrooms before teaching. I'm also aware that my experiences in life and work will benefit my future students immensely.

Your blog is now bookmarked, and I will visit from time to time to see how you are doing. I feel a second childhood coming on...good luck in your new vocation!

Well, I too changed careers after 25 years in business and corporate training. At age 49 I went back to school to get a fifth year and teacher certification. I was 50 when I received my first full time teaching job. I felt fortuate to land a job in May before I completed the program. Out of 30 students in my cohort only a few of us landed FT jobs. Now I am going into my third year of teaching first grade and working on my Masters. I feel my business experience prepared me for teaching especially primary students by being flexible and being able to juggle many things at one time. I teach in a private school and this year have 5 special needs students that have not been diagnosed and are taking up much of my teaching time with redirections. Last year I had 26 students who came ready to learn. This year I have 23 students but 5 of them need more one on one time to be successful. I really feel that the last two years I was teaching and now 2 weeks into the new school year I do not feel I'm able to meet the needs of those who are ready to move forward because of the 5 very needy students. I've taken one student to the Deans office this past week for unsafe behavior, attacking a student with a handmade stick cross. I am not trained in special education although my 5th grade classroom I student taught in had 5 mainstreamed special ed students. I had a full time aid that worked with those students and I ended up teaching 16 regular students. I'm ready to teach, but have never been so exhausted in the classroom. I'm more tired than when I was working 60-80 hours a week in business. I don't want to loose my passion for teaching due to exhaustions, but with university classes, committee work, and those special needs students I'm feeling it's going to be a tough year. The principal has set up a conference with the parent of the unsafe student. I absolutely loved teaching the last two years not now am feeling I need the stanima of a 20 something to teach yet I'm now 50 something.

Need my strength

My grandfather says, "it's okay to have butterflies in your stomach. just try to get them to fly in formation."

WOW. Thanks for all of your reflections and insights. I am 49, just finished my Master's and have landed my first position. I am scared, but now feel better after reading all of your postings.

I am 51 and considering becoming a special education teacher in Ohio. I am worried that I will not be able to find a job because of my age. Does anyone have any advice?

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