Real Talk about the back-to-school "Honeymoon Period"

I just got home from my first day of school, and it was a delight. "Well", a chorus of teachers will reply, "of course it was. You're in the honeymoon period. Just wait a week or so, and you'll find out what the year is REALLY going to be like." 

Ah yes, the "honeymoon period" - the few halcyon days when it seems like the sailing will be smooth all year, when students are on their best behavior, and intra-class resentments and dubious work habits have been temporarily put in check. 

Until this year, I've accepted the premise of the "honeymoon period" without examining it, but today, I've got some stuff to say:

1. Nobody should ever use the phrase "honeymoon period" when talking to a first-year teacher

Imagine this scene: It's 3:35 in the afternoon on a Monday in late August. For the first time in your life, you've spent your day teaching entire classes worth of children (or teenagers), and miraculously, everyone has made it through unscathed. The students paid attention (at least sometimes) when you spoke. The visions you'd dreamed up at home actually came to life in your classroom. And, to a greater degree than you ever thought possible, people accepted the idea that you are a figure with authority. 

You stagger into the staff room, and one of your colleagues asks "How did it go?" 

"It actually went really great!" you reply, punch-drunk and slurring your words slightly. 

"Yeah", your colleague replies. "Isn't the honeymoon period great?"

"Honeymoon period?" You ask.

"Yeah, you know, when the kids are all trying to impress you, before they decide they don't really need to listen to you."

And just like that, you discover that you weren't working magic after all.

Never say "honeymoon period" to a first year teacher. It's unconscionable. Don't tell any first year teachers about this blog post either. 

2. The first hour of teaching has nothing to do with any kind of "honeymoon period"

This just be me, but from my first day as a teacher to this very morning, I have never had a strong first hour of the year. It's a matter of rhythm. Everything I've planned was designed based on a memory of students from two months ago, rather than a response to what students are looking for. If there isn't a name for this, there should be. I suggest "awkward first hour" as a working title.

3. The "honeymoon period" isn't all about students

Here's a formulation I came up with while I was driving home today: the "honeymoon period" ends at the point when the teacher and the students are all too tired to continue to present the selves they want to be. 

This feels to me like what it's all about. We all have aspirational versions of ourselves, freed from our accumulated bad habits, and we come back to school inhabiting those versions. But after a few days, we fall into our old habits. Students who were attempting unspoken truces with long-time rivals fall back into a rhythm of mutual injury and resentment. Equally importantly, teachers who came in with a sense of benign understanding for students' least productive manifestations of anxiety find ourselves falling back into a sense of resentment of students who "would definitely get so much out of this if they'd just give it a try". 

I've never heard anyone talk about the "honeymoon period" as if it applied to teacher behaviors as well as student behaviors. If we're going to keep using that term, I think we should.

Just don't tell any teachers about it until their second year in the job.