No matter how long you've been on this side of the desk (almost 20 years for me), the back-to-school nerves never seem to go away.
It's completely inexplicable. I like my job very much, I have a good work-life balance and I know for a fact that the second I set foot in the classroom, all will be right with the world. I don't recall having a terrible first class with any group, certainly not since my training days; yet without fail, at the end of every summer, the feeling returns.
Over the years I have learnt to manage the process more effectively. I accept that it will be difficult to sleep the night before our return, so I stock up on an over-the-counter sleep remedy, which helps. After one awful year when I was plagued by horrendous anxiety-related gut cramps, I also watch what I eat and drink and am careful not to overload on food or on alcohol on the couple of nights before term starts; it's just a little bit too easy, past experience has taught me, to enjoy the Last Supper only to end up paying for it in agony.
The last few nights of the summer holiday are often visited by anxiety dreams. For me, these tend to take the form of the nightmare class that won't be quiet. Again, this is something that I do not expect to happen in reality but clearly the anxiety is there. Other colleagues have reported classic anxiety dreams involving lateness to work and (my personal favourite) being so late for a school trip that it was absolutely essential to leave home immediately and get behind the wheel of the school minibus completely naked; there was simply no time to get dressed, apparently.
My family and non-teaching friends find the nerves surprising and to some extent concerning. In truth, they are neither. For I know from others that my experience is not uncommon. As I settle into bed on the last night before the new academic year rolls around, teachers like me across the whole country will be lying awake.
There is comfort in that solidarity.