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For the first time in my life, I have butterflies in my stomach about the first day of school. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I’m the teacher this time at a school where I’m the new "kid" on the block.

I have thought about what it must feel like to be the new kid time and time again as my sons faced the first day at yet another new school.

When we moved here three years ago, Jimmy was about to begin seventh grade at his fifth new school.

He attended kindergarten in Texas, first and second grade in North Carolina, third and fourth in California and fifth and sixth grades in Pennsylvania. Tommy had been to almost as many different schools when we decided to stay here for a while.

There had been some tears along the way, but overall, my boys had taken the moves in stride. Hurt feelings or a fist fight within the first week of school seemed par for the course.

It was the opposite of how I had grown up in a small North Carolina town where many of the kids in my kindergarten class were stuck with me through our high school graduation.

On more than one occasion, I envied the rare new students who showed up in class because it was such a big deal. I’m now regretting every time I made that mistake.

These butterflies in my tummy are getting more restless every day, and I’m pretty sure they will turn into bats by the time school starts next week.

I’m even more nervous than I was last winter when I decided to enter grad school and had to walk into a college classroom for the first time in 20 years!

I know what the problem is, and with any luck it will go away as soon as the students begin to pile off the school buses.

The reason I’m so nervous and find myself tossing and turning at night is because I have spent summer vacation away from the very students I am so eager to teach. Once I see their little faces, I will automatically go into action and remember the reason I returned to the work force in the first place.

One day, I decided I really needed a break from my busy schedule of summer classes and job-searching, so I stopped in to see three of my students from last year who were attending summer school. It was a much-needed reminder of why I was working so hard over summer vacation.

The half-hour visit did as much to boost my spirits as a trip to the beach, especially when a tiny first-grader broke into a huge smile when he spotted me and called out, "Mrs. Zich! Mrs. Zich!"

This week, I have been getting ready for my new students and finding my way around the school. Feeling lost and having to turn around is something I’m very used to, thanks to our many moves.

Being the new "kid" in school, on the other hand, feels totally new. The only way I can keep my anticipation from getting the best of me is to stay busy from sunrise to sunset so my mind won’t get a chance to think about it.

Those of you who have read this column before know how easy it is for me to do that. But eventually, I turn around to find that every dish has been washed and it’s time to try to get some sleep. That’s when the butterflies wake up from their nap and really begin to flutter; I’m convinced they’re nocturnal creatures.

Once my new students arrive and I start getting to know and love them as much as the kids at my old school, the butterflies will surely scatter.

And even if they don’t go away for a while, I’m probably going to be able to get a good night’s rest because I will be too exhausted to notice them.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 19 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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