I have a love-hate relationship with the first week of school.
I love it because it is a time for a fresh start, a do-over; everything about the start of the year is new and exciting. And to be honest, after 10 weeks away from teaching, I miss it…. even the most annoying of personalities has made the changeover to endearing in my most human of memory banks. Honestly, what other profession allows one to have a “new year” in September (and then another in January)?
Meeting students for the first time and building that community of learners out of so many differing personalities is challenging and fun. As a Responsive Classroom, we often start our year with a Human Treasure Hunt (see page 2 of this link). We learn much about our sameness, and our differences and begin to build a tolerant classroom together. Will we falter? Most likely, but then we will regroup, rethink and begin again.
This year I have finally taken my principal’s advice to move slowly and not give in to the pressure to get the show on the road. We have spent 3 days learning and practicing routines that will become part of my students’ mental “muscle memory”. We practiced the quiet chime signal until students can stop and listen without reminders, we have learned important emergency routines and other essentials. And, using ideas from The Daily Five, students learn what is expected during Independent Reading — this is the routine I am most excited about. By slowing building my students’ “stamina” for reading independently, I hope for once and for all (well, it’s a hope), that my students will be able to work independently thoughout the 60-minute Reading Workshop Block so that my focus can be more on instructing and conferencing — and not so much on behavior managements. We are well behind diving into academics this year. I am trusting that the time and effort spent in setting routines and expectations will pay off in the long term.
So, what don’t I love? Well, for one thing I don’t love the paperwork that comes with the start of school. Yes, I realize it is part of the territory, but starting, updating, and creating lists in cumulative folders, record cards, gradebooks, and so on is tedious. Did everyone change phone numbers this past summer — I’m beginning to think they did! And, it does not seem to matter how much I’ve anticipated returning to my school hours and routines, I am one disorganized mess during that first week. I’m still not sure if we have food in the house.
However, this weekend I am determined to enjoy the beautiful end-of-summer weather with which we’ve been gifted. And next week we’ll begin again to build our community of learners.