Fair time meant I got to hang out with my 4-H friends every day for a whole week. Even better, we were free to roam around, ride carnival rides, play games, and generally make mischief, fueled by a steady diet of french fries and ice cream. Walking through the barns had a very specific energy. The smell of mulch still makes me a little giddy.
Returning to the fair this year, though, I realize that with adulthood, it has lost some of its magic. The soft serve ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles wasn't as majestic as I'd remembered. The lights in the barns seemed dimmer, and the ferris wheel was a little less awe-inspiring. It made me feel old, and a little sad.
One thing that hasn't lost its magic as I've grown older is the beginning of school. It is always my absolute favorite time of year. Everything is awash with newness. The air is crisp, and the energy is tangible. Stepping back into the school building at the start of the new year magnifies the unlimited potential that our classrooms and our students hold.
Despite whatever failures, either real or perceived, we've had in the previous year or years, the first day of school is a fresh start. All is forgiven, and everyone is a stranger in the best way. Every September, you get to build a new community from scratch. Tweaking routines, putting new ideas into action and only repeating those things that worked. I'm getting butterflies in my stomach (the good kind) just thinking about it! I hope my students are excited, too, but I know many of them are not looking forward to the start of school.
I have a responsibility to make this first day magical for my students. Of course teachers love school, it's why we're here! When I think about the anxious new student or the kid who was suspended every other week last year, I want to make this year feel new to them, too. But how?
1. I won't be reading my syllabus and a list of rules on day 1, (well, I actually probably won't do these things ever, to be completely honest) and I hope that my whole team makes this same commitment. The first day is about more than setting a daunting list of teacher expectations.
2. Students will read and write on day 1! It will be low-stakes reading and writing, but it's gonna happen!
3. I will learn every student's name on day 1. I'm lucky to have a somewhat natural gift for remembering names, but it will still take work. I got some new tips to try out here.
4. I will actively solicit students' input on what they would like to see from English class in the coming year. I'm still fine-tuning how this will look. In the past I've done a "gallery walk" approach with lots of sticky notes. I want them to have ownership of their learning right away!
5. I will actively try to ignore other teachers' "warnings" about problem students that will be on my team this year. 3 months have gone by, and middle school students change a lot in those 3 months! No matter what kind of school experience my students have had in the past, I want this school year to be a great one for them.
6. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I will show them how EXCITED I am to be their teacher, and to start a new year!
Hopefully all these things help to maintain the magic for my students... How do you embrace the magic of the first day?