Back-to-school anxiety 'definitely different' as San Jose teachers return to full-in-person learning

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The first day of school in the Oak Grove School District always brings a level of excitement and anxiousness for teachers, but this year is on a whole new level for some San Jose teachers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tuesday, teachers at Frost Elementary School were anxiously putting on the finishing touches to their classrooms before students return from Summer break. Students return to classrooms on Wednesday for the first time in 15 months.

"In a normal year, I feel like it's kind of similar to those first day jitters that students have," fourth grade teacher Reina Ruiz said. "It's a brand new group of people, how am I going to relate to the class? Are they going to like me?"

But mix in a global pandemic and the first full classrooms on campus in a year and a half and we've got a whole new ballgame.

"I'll be honest, my beginning of the year anxiety dreams were definitely different this year," First grade teacher Heather Turner said. "I had an anxiety dream, not the usual 'oh, I forgot to wear clothes to school' kind of anxiety dream. I forgot how to do something on the board."

Joking aside, there is a lot of real anxiety for the staff this year.

The health and safety of students will always be in the forefront for teachers and COVID-19 makes it tough.

While some California teachers have expressed concerns about their own safety, at Frost, the teachers say their are just focusing on creating a safe environment for everyone.

"I just want to make sure my families and the students feel comfortable," Ruiz said. "It's going to take a lot of teamwork."

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It will also take teamwork to manage how students are coming in after a year plus of online learning.

Reina Ruiz is used to a certain level of readiness from her fourth grade students, but the last time many were in classrooms was second grade.

As for first grade teacher Heather Turner, she'll be welcoming some students into the classroom for the first time ever.

But she says the excitement and experience she and her colleagues have ease the anxieties and will lead to a great year.

"I have fifteen years of, 'okay this is what I was doing' and it was just a year and a half of things being a little bit different," Turner said. "Absolutely I can go back to making a community, making a group of students that we all care about each other and are learning together."

"I have this book we're going to start off reading that I found for this year - You're finally here! And this is for the kids, you are finally here!" exclaimed Turner.

Together again back in school.
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