There is something exciting about first things... like first dates, first day of the year and first pets (even if it’s only a goldfish). For me, nothing beats the excitement of the first day of school. As a student I enjoyed picking out new folders and just the right outfit. As a parent I obsessed over putting labels on school supplies and taking the obligatory first day photo. As a teacher, I loved setting up my classroom with anticipation of all the amazing students I would get to teach and learn from.
My first day of school this year is different.
My kids are grown and don’t need labeled supplies and fully resist any attempts at taking a photo. I’m teaching in a co-op so rather than setting up a classroom, I’m trying to figure out how to cart in supplies and keep organized in a small room and prepare for mixed age groups of students. On my first day, I was filled with anticipation, hope and a little uncertainty. I focused on building relationships and setting the tone for the year. This is something I learned from four boys in a third-grade classroom. The story I lived with them, ultimately became the book Because of 4 which is set to launch on November 1st.
Since that day I’ve written a first draft (and many more!), I successfully self-published my first workbook, IDEAS on Amazon and I’m about to publish my first book on November 1st. I’ve also had many other firsts which somehow evolved from this day and this story. I’ve taken my first educational entrepreneur course, raised my first flock of chickens, sent my first born to college, welcomed my first Bernese Mountain dog, homed my first cat, rode my first horse, and was bucked off for the first time. But even getting bucked off a horse was nothing compared to my first time in Mrs. G’s classroom when I met 4 third graders.
I’ll never forget the day I walked into Mrs. G’s room. It was still the first or second week of school and I was teaching a lesson in every classroom to look for students who might benefit from additional enrichment activities. We were looking for students who are sometimes missed by traditional assessments. I had my routine down and was having a great time in each of the classes. Students were typically excited about the activities and easily engaged. As I entered Mrs. G’s room, I immediately knew something was different. There was a substitute in the room and most of the students were not listening or paying any attention. I was already tired from teaching the same lesson with high energy and enthusiasm several times. I felt a bit deflated. But I dug in and continued with my lesson pulling every classroom management trick I knew and even offering some students extra opportunities to do some activities if they would just try. This moment felt like an eternity, and I was relieved when it was over. Little did I know that moment was the start of something which would change my life and my teaching forever. One of the things I learned is how we show up matters, whether it’s the first day or the 100thday. Whether you are a teacher, parent or coach when you see a student first thing in the morning, on the first day of practice or in your first class of the day, remember you might just be the person they need, you may even be the first person who really cares about them. They might not be used to this first experience of interest and care and may even push back or act out at first. Keep at it and don’t give up. You might just make one day, the first day of a whole new story!