7:25 a.m. August 10th, 2011

I’m dazed. Feel like I’m dehydrated, but I know I’m not. My mouth is dry and my tongue has the bitter taste that one gets before throwing up. I had to pull over in Etiwanda to have an emergency bathroom break and my stomach continues to curdle.

All this after four years of teaching, the first day of year five—year five—in the classroom, and 25 thirteen-year-olds still make me nervous on the first day of school.

And this morning felt like I was force-feeding myself. Every bite of granola I had to wash down with apple juice.

Since I was a kid, I’ve gotten anxious before big events. I can recall having to pull over on the way to the city-wide 12K when I was in middle school. Recently, when I climbed Mt. San Gorgonio, I had to squat in the snow on the side of highway 38 and wipe with snow.

It was tingly.

I wonder if taking something would make these days easier. I’d still be anxious, but at least I wouldn’t need to pull over at a Shell station to take care of some business.

And now I’m about to arrive to work 20 minutes later than I wanted to get there. It’s not bad—I only have a few things left to do that will probably take about five minutes before students arrive. But still, it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

7:42 a.m.

The new job didn’t become real until I arrived on campus and heard the first pre-teen girl hugging her friend and creaming “Omigaaaaaawd! How was your summerrrrrrrr?”

Up until then, I thought Hey, I got offered a new job, I might take it.

Or This job sounds real good, it’s got high pay. Maybe I should check it out.

It’s now my new job; I work at Mountain View Middle School.

I am Mr. Vaudrey. The math teacher.

4:47 p.m.

This morning, I saw a pack of boys as I walked by, and they gave me “the eye”.

I used to see “the eye” when I was a student in middle school, and packs sought to pick on me. It means that the pack is sizing you up for weaknesses, seeing if they can pick on you to make themselves feel better. Even though I’m now older and smarter and bigger and stronger than they are, I still get the eye because they’re in a pack and I’m by myself.

Just after I pass them, I hear one of the pack yell, “Hey, you a teacher?”

And I know the game. I know they’re looking for a way to bend me around their will, and thus, take some of the power from me, the teacher. So without stopping, I turn slightly and say “Yep.”

“Well, what’s your name?” Now the whole pack is watching.

I quickly turn around and beckon the vocal student to walk with me. “What?” I beckon again and keep walking.

I know that, if I stop walking, then he is the cause of my stop. It sounds trivial. It sounds like nothing—but then he just made a teacher do something. He was in control, he bent the grown-up to his will.

I can hear him scampering behind me and as I round a corner of a building, he tries again, “Wait! What’s your name?”

I wave again and say, “Walk with me.”

He looks back at his friends, looks at me, and says, “Naw, I’m okay.” And returns to the pack.

I continue to my class and permit myself a smug grin. I won.