One week of school is in the books. Well, technically not a full week of classes since we started on Wednesday, but the amount of tired I am parallels the level of fatigue that normally sets in from a typical five-day week.
Let me just say that I do not like the first day of school. I tossed and turned all Tuesday night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. If I could ballpark the total amount of sleep I got that night, I’d say it was somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours. This is my 6th year of teaching, yet having a restful evening the night before the opening day of school continues to elude me. The first day of school contains far too many unknowns, which causes my angst-meter to skyrocket, making sleep impossible. Bleary-eyed and sleep deprived, I arrived at my school roughly 40 minutes before the first bell.
In 7th grade, we have the kids for an hour and a half of what is called “extended homeroom”. During that time, I have to greet students at the door, get them seated, introduce myself, assign them lockers, help them open the lockers, review the code of conduct, discuss rules and expectations for the 7th grade hallway, tell them the schedule, show them where they will eat lunch, and explain to them what we will do in case of a fire, tornado or lockdown procedure. It’s an incredible amount of information to cram into 90 minutes, not too mention that I’m really stretching the limits of 7th grade attention spans by going over so much material in lecture format. Most of my extended homeroom was spent showing students how to open their lockers, even though they had them on the 6th grade hallway. After two or three failed attempts by a student, I would swoop in and work my magic. When the locker opened, each kid would inevitably ask, “How did you do that?”, to which I simply replied, “I’m fly like that”.
But the two things I hate most about the first day is going over rules and expectations, and the fact that I do not know any of these 80-something faces looking at me. Don’t get me wrong – I understand the value of reviewing the expectations that I have for the class along with the consequences that I will administer if those expectations are not met. However, running through that same song and dance four times in a day becomes quite tedious. I much rather prefer a normal class day where I talk WAY less and serve more as a facilitator to the students’ learning.
As I mentioned, the awkwardness of those first classes is unnerving; the kids don’t know me, and I don’t know them. Neither of us is completely sure how the other is going to act or react. The best part of teaching is the relationships that are built with students, but at this point those relationships have yet to form, and we are really just twenty-something strangers together in a room.
With all that being said, we made it. Even though we are just three days into the year, I feel as though I know my students SO MUCH BETTER than I did a week ago. Some of their personalities have begun to emerge through our discussions and interactions. I can already tell that I have a lot of eager learners as well a handful of students who are going to be more difficult to reach. Either way, I’m excited to begin working with all of them.
The highlight of the week for me came on the second day of homeroom when I read aloud to my kids for ten minutes from Sharon Flake’s Bang!. For anyone unfamiliar with the book, it’s a pretty easy read that starts off with a bang (pun intended) as we learn immediately via a flashback how the narrator’s brother was shot and killed. My students did an excellent job of listening and responding to the questions that I posed to them as I read. When I finished, we talked about how much I valued the importance of giving them time in class to read books of their own choosing. I told them that they were going to get opportunities to get lost in a variety of different genres over the next year. We discussed the ways in which readers preview potential books, and how they set about choosing one to read.
Then the kids got out of their seats and perused my classroom library, which I am quite proud of, and chose a text that appealed to them. Finally, my homeroom read independently for 6 minutes (we were pressed for time). More than half of my students asked for bookmarks that they could personalize so that they could continue reading their book the next time we met. On Friday, this same group read for nearly 10 minutes during the end of homeroom, and several more left bookmarks in their novels. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how well this group dove right into the independent reading initiative in just two quick days.
Needless to say, my enthusiasm for the upcoming school year is high.