Most of you are probably back to school now so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you the happiest of new years!
The start of the year for teachers is always an exciting, but stressful time.
There are cubbies to label, bulletin boards to put up, first days to plan, read alouds to choose, yearlong calendars to revise….
The list goes on and on.
Teachers are busy and stressed and excited all at once during these early days because there are so many things that seem important about starting the year and usually it’s in a teacher’s personality to want everything to be just right.
It is helpful to remember on those particularly long first days that we’re thinking and planning and determining what’s important through our own eyes……the eyes of an educator.
For a moment let’s take off that lens and instead of looking at the start of year through our own eyes let’s look at it through the eyes of two students, my four-year-old niece and five- year -old nephew. Both are at the starts of their school years and they reminded me that what kids and teachers think about during those early days are so different.
Here is part of the email that my sister-in-law sent me yesterday to let me know how school orientation had gone for them.
Vince and Celia had their orientations this week and they both did great. No surprise, Vince is very excited about Kindergarten and riding the bus to the Pittaway School for his extended day in the afternoon. He had a tour of his building and seems very comfortable and ready.
Celia had her orientation today and it went really well. I had to leave her in the classroom with some other kids and the teachers for the parent orientation and that was rough. Full red face, wet eyes and clinging but she didn’t cry. She knows the teachers from visiting with Vince and they were great. They were able to distract her long enough for me to run out. When I got back almost an hour later, she was all smiles. She had a great time. She was a little bashful saying goodbye to the teachers and when we went out into the hall she froze and wouldn’t leave. She looked up at me and said, “But mommy that’s my friend!” She then turned and went back to say good-bye to Madison. (Celia doesn’t say good bye to people she knows usually so I was stunned to see her do this)
Then it was my turn for wet eyes. Vince’s old teacher was in the hall and saw her do this. She welled up too and gave me a big thumbs up when Celia wasn’t looking.
We walked around the building and went to the playground for a bit and then she skipped to the car saying, “I love it here! I can’t wait to go to school!”
What did I learn from switching my lens and looking at the first day of school through the eyes of two of my favorite students?
What mattered to Vince? That’s obvious. He gets to take the bus to the Pittaway School for extended day. What could be more exciting to a five –year- old than that? It’s the first time he is traveled without an adult he knows and by doing so he is creating his own independent life. I learned firsthand how important this independent life was to him when I asked him a few weeks ago if I could come do Writing Workshop in his Kindergarten classroom during the upcoming year. He clearly wanted to protect his independence and tried to spare my feelings by telling me that it would be a long ride from Hoboken (where I live) to his school in Ashland. I pushed a little further and reminded him that I could sleep over his house the night before to ease my traveling burden. His answer was a polite but clear no!
And what’s important to Celia? For her it was making a new friend named Madison. Celia has been talking about having friends for a few months now. She said that she had a friend at camp and when I asked her what her name was she said that she didn’t know because she hadn’t spoken to her. It was clear this summer that she had heard about having a friend but didn’t quite get what that meant. On her first day of school, Celia not only made a new friend, but she also, for the first time, truly understood what it meant to have a friend and how a good friend can enrich your life and even make you want to go back and give a good bye hug.
I hope that by looking through those first days through the eyes of students it eases your stress just a bit.
Maybe the color of that bulletin board isn’t as important as it seems.
The kids will live if your first Read Aloud isn’t perfect.
That first Writing Workshop probably isn’t as important to them as it seems to you.
They’re probably too busy thinking about buses, extended days and new friends to even notice…….
How is the start of the year going? I would love to hear stories through both your eyes and your students.