With a few hours of sleep and a coffee in a to-go mug, I headed to my first day of school this morning. Again. Every year, for the last five years, my first day of school has been full of change: a new school, a new role, a new group of students. The first day jitters are a real thing, no matter how many of them you go through.
For the students, too, today can be nerve wracking. They show up to school with their parents, check the class lists, and get sidetracked from finding their new teacher by running into their friends. Then, when they walk into their new classroom, they are expected to learn new rules, sit next to new people, and figure out whether or not they like their new teacher.
When we, as teachers, are feeling anxious, it might be difficult for us to see the clues that will help us understand how our students are feeling. It’s almost impossible to avoid this but we have to work with it. At the very least, if we’re feeling a bit nervous, we should expect that our students are, as well. With some practice and a little reflection, we can use our repertoire to identify the small things that people do when they aren’t altogether all that pleased with their situation.
After two months of sleeping in, naps, sunny days, and ice creams at the beach on Monday evenings, it’s hard to sit at a desk and listen to some guy/gal standing at the front of a room. I walked into the classroom with a head full of ideas, as I’m sure many teachers did today, and it was hard to restrain myself from just unloading all of them. But, it’s important to be flexible with your pacing. We’re not serving out scoops of gelato.
For both students and teachers, there’s value in reflecting on the first day. Take stock of the potential in the room, look for the things that excite you, and try to identify what might get under your skin. Once you’ve done that, remind yourself that things can change. The beauty of learning is that it should be dynamic; it’s hard to learn in a static environment. Change, really, is what learning is grounded on.
A successful first day will look different to everyone who walked into a classroom today. Tomorrow is the first second day of the school year, the day after will be the first third day, and it’ll go on like this for the rest of the school year. Each day will build on the previous ones, the nerves will settle, and the learning will progress.