Wednesday, 12 September 2007

First Days of School

This post was supposed to have begun thus: The first day of school is officially over.

Then, the first day of school was over and I hadn't gotten around to blogging or journaling anything. The same thing happened every day after that. Before I knew it, the first day and week of school were over and I hadn't captured their essence as I had intended. These are important days when the character of the class is beginning to gel and I am getting to know my students. Today is the 7th day of school and I spent it at home with my son who is sick. So, it's today that I can carve out a few minutes to write in my journal - my first entry for this year - and then to expand on my thoughts in this blog.

As I pause to reflect on the first few days of school I am once again reminded how important it is to take some time to think about my teaching. It is this process that gets me energized to go back into the classroom and try again. It is what helps me stay the course when I feel at my lowest and wonder if I will ever be the kind of teacher I read about in professional books or the kind that writes pages and pages describing her classroom on the many professional listservs that I belong to. In Sonia Nieto's book, What Keeps Teachers Going, a teacher describes in poignant terms his doubts about his abilities and effectiveness as a teacher. I identified with that teacher. I am him. A day doesn't go by when I don't question what I did in the classroom that day. Sometimes I'm very hard on myself and forget all the good things that happen. Which gets me back to the original topic of this paragraph: the importance of reflection and writing. As I write I eventually get to the good stuff that keeps me coming back for more. And, then it's there, on the printed page for me to read over and over again.

So, what is my thinking about the first days of school? I have many questions and not many answers. I wonder how much the decorations or lack thereof matter in a child's first impressions of his new classroom? Did it matter that I did not have store bought "stuff" on my bulletin boards like many of the other teachers? Was the layout of my room, as carefully thought out as it was, of any consequence to the kids or was I the one who set the tone? Or was it a combination of both elements?

The start of this year seemed smoother than in years past. Did that have to do with the fact that I have eight students from grade one with me this year? Are they also helping to set the tone? Or does it have to do with the fact that I'm going slowly, focusing on procedures and expectations? Is consistency and follow-up, though not perfect, the key? Is it a combination of all of these particulars that make up the character, nature, tone, etc. of a classroom community? I'm beginning to think that's it but I'm still not sure. As I write, I'm thinking I should ask the kids themselves for their impressions. But, what do I ask? How do you feel in our classroom? What do you like about our classroom? What don't you like about our classroom? What would you change about our classroom? That's it! I'll ask the kids and reflect on what they tell me. I'm sure, if nothing else, I will learn a lot about them. Now, I'm excited to go back tomorrow (hopefully my son will feel better) and try this out and get their responses. The power of reflection!
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