They were all staring at me, waiting for something profound or at the very minimum something of interest to come out of my mouth. A variety of writing utensils stemmed from their pre-teen hands. Some did as they were told and brought the bare essentials to class: pen and paper. Others found a stray pencil or forgotten marker left on the ground, a few of them sought refuge from an overly prepared neighbor, “Can I borrow a pen or pencil,” I heard whispered a half a dozen times.

Now it was my turn. Had I prepared enough? Probably not. Ten minutes before the hallway filled with chatter and locker door slams, I felt overly prepared, but as the minutes ticked up to the ringing of the bell, I started to second-guess myself.  What if my lesson has no point? What if I run out of time or have too much time at the end? What if I all of a sudden forget what a verb or an adverb or an adjective is or I can’t remember the necessary elements of a narrative essay? What if they ask me something I don’t know? What if they ask me something I do know but I can’t explain it.

In this moment of expectation from a group of people whom I already have invested so much, I knew there was no time for self-doubt or second-guessing.

I gave them their warm-up assignment and prepared them for what was to come next. We talked about their vocabulary words, specifically about the word receding and why and how it was used both as a verb and an adjective in their text, we talked about theme and genre and the difference between the two.

I wasn’t perfect. I stumbled a bit, but hopefully not too much.

The very pregnant teacher, who I will be substituting for, sat at the back of the classroom bravely observing me while I tried to fit into her shoes. We are separated by 14 years and 364 days of teaching experience. While I spent my 20s finding myself, she had the wherewithal to help others find themselves. She is one of the good ones. Actually, she is one of the great ones and I have been lucky enough to learn more from her than I ever could have by reading the five “How to be a teacher” textbooks currently sitting in the backseat of my car.

People have repeatedly reminded me of how crazy I am to venture into a teaching career (teaching is a verb but noticed how it is used as an adjective) how difficult it is to find a teaching job and how little money I will make. They inform me, “teaching isn’t what it use to be” and I need to make sure I have a “thick skin.”

I am not sure what any of that means. All I really know is that I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 12-years-old. I took a longer road than most to get here, and thick skin or not, I am ready and excited to be here.

As I stood before the students those first couple of days I realized how lucky I am that I am not perfect and I don’t know everything. I reflected on my past teachers who thought of themselves as perfect people (notice how perfect was used as a verb and adjective) who knew everything about everything, no wonder they always seemed so impatient and frustrated with their class.

Perfect or not perfect, I cannot imagine I will never be frustrated or become a little impatient. However, what I will promise is I will always be prepared with more than just the bare essentials and even if I don’t have something profound to say, I’ll do my best to say something of interest, not because I am interesting but because I want to keep the interesting students interested.