The cyclical nature of teaching is at once comforting and disturbing. A new school year means a fresh start, a chance to “get things right” or try new things. After your first few years it’s also a return to the familiar as you reestablish the rules, routines and procedures that have come to define your classroom. And in one way, it can be terrifying, because you may meet reincarnations of past students, including the archetypal “problem children.”

Now, of course, children are as unique as snowflakes, and no two are identical. But once you have seen your fair share of students you start to notice certain recurring characters in your classroom drama, some of whom you wish you could avoid. Today I met a student who reminds me in many ways of my ALP, my old arch-nemesis from my first year of teaching. He’s very bright, very verbal, and loves to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Luckily, while this may be a new cycle of the school year, I haven’t lost the lessons from years past. While ALP was able to antagonize me and basically usurp control of my classroom in my first year, I don’t foresee anyone under five feet taking over my classroom this year. I have learned countless ways to exert and express authority over the 28 (yes 28!) new little people in my classroom without the shouting matches and frustration that characterized my first year of teaching. So while it may be a bit daunting to see a new version of an old challenge, in the familiarity I’m able to see my own growth, and that’s encouraging.