One of the nicest things about being a teacher is the school year schedule.
And I don’t mean primarily the summer break, though that certainly is a gift.
It’s the fact that every August, I get to start over again. The kids get to start over again. We all do– a clean slate, a mini-jubilee. And this year my start is extra new, because I have finally moved back to Texas…
…and I am teaching at a new school–new for me, but also just new itself–only about ten years old. There’s a freshness and excitement about the place that I haven’t felt in a long time. Maybe I brought it with me, since I’m new, or maybe it was already there, but I have been struck by how positive the atmosphere is at all the in-service meetings–and as every teacher knows, positive in-service or PD meetings is something pretty special. Granted, I’m sure a lot of people don’t want to be sitting in the library for hours at a time listening to administrators, but the library itself is beautiful and clean and new, and everyone seems to like one another a lot. There is a lot of laughter– a happy laughter and playfulness. So I’m full of hope.
It’s not perfect. No school is. We are still wondering how to enforce parts of the uniform (has any Catholic high school figured this out? Anyone?) Having been a part-time administrator myself last year, I am definitely picking up on the procedures that have not been thought through completely—but since the school is undergoing a change in administration, that is understandable.
So tomorrow is my first day with the kids. I’ve written about first days before, and looking back on my older entries from a few years ago, I’m struck by the confidence I felt then. The older I get, the less sure I feel about some things, and even though this is going to be my eighth (!) year of teaching, I still feel brand new.
I suppose that is partially why I have written here less frequently. I feel less sure about giving advice and making any kind of pronouncement about teaching—though I have thought about it more than ever these past couple of years as a teaching coach at my previous school.
One of the things I’m trying to discern more clearly this year seems pretty basic, but is pretty important. It is the difference between teaching seniors and teaching underclassmen. I have no problem making sophomores (and this year, freshmen) enter my room silently, but this year I will be teaching mostly seniors, and although I think a lot of structure and firmness is important for them too, I want to balance that with acknowledging their (potential) greater maturity. Seniors tend to resent anything that smacks of condescension or strictness for its own sake. And, in some ways, I feel they actually have a right to those feelings. Many of them are going to college next year, or to a job–and when they turn eighteen they will be able to vote. They need to sense my respect for them right away, but also my confidence in the respect I will be able to earn from them.
So tomorrow, I need to communicate that somehow.
That’s all I’ve got right now.
Except here’s a teacher I’ve been learning from. His videos are worth checking out, especially if you’re over-obsessing over the first day of school, like I am. I don’t do all the same things he does, but I like that he is so thoughtful about his craft. Here’s some gold worth stealing (remember, we’re teachers. We are encouraged to steal from one another):
“I like reminding them [on the first day] that I like to teach. […] I just think it’s worth reminding people sometimes that you’re excited to be where you are. And this is in your whole life, right? It’s worth your time to tell your friend, to remind them, ‘Hey, I’m really glad you’re my friend.'”
Thanks, Mr. Reynolds. I need to remember to tell my kids tomorrow how excited I am to be with them, and what a gift it is for me to be their teacher.