As a student, I had a certain image of a teacher. I had the notion they were “off” all summer and walked into school the first day to teach…just like us.
I was clueless as to what teachers, especially elementary teachers, do each year during the summer before the school year begins. I had no idea the amount of personal money and “free” time that elementary teachers devoted to preparing for students.
Guess what? Now I do. Personally, I was proud of myself this summer. Why? I left my school on June 4th after a not-so-helpful training day and didn’t reenter Room 302 until July 4. For some, this may seem odd to be proud of going in a month before school begins. However, in the past, I’ve been known to “take two weeks off” then start my room set-up as soon as the “all-clear” came from our custodians. I’ve learned that “all clear” means the floors are waxed and “stuff” is back inside.
So, on July 4th, my cleaning supplies, boxes of materials, [I pretty much pack up my room at the end of the year to force me to reorganize and get rid of stuff.] and I spent some quality hours together. I manipulated myself by telling myself if I “was ready enough” by July 15th, then I’d not return until August 6th.
Well, I was “ready enough”, but the lure of preparing pulled me back in on August 1st. Then, on Wednesday, August 7th, from 5pm-7pm I met almost all of my students and a family member or more. Then, August 8th, at 7:45…my 24th year in third grade kickstarted.
Granted, it’s only been four days, but what a wonderfully spectacular four days we’ve had. I’ve been dubbed “the best third grade teacher I’ve ever had” and “the most fun teacher” by one or more students. My fan club of my oral reading skills has grown. One student even told me his mom, who once worked in our building, would stop by my class in the hallway to enjoy my read alouds.
Some think once you’ve been teaching the same grad level for this long, you aren’t being challenged. However, I challenge myself each other to start something new, to change something that can be improved, and to ditch something unneeded.
Our superintendent challenged us to focus on building relationships in the midst of teaching our curriculum. Let’s face it, no one learns much from someone s/he doesn’t respect or someone that s/he thinks doesn’t care about him/her. That has spurred me to engage my third graders in more conversations about non-curriculum chats to get to know them. It’s made me laugh, smile, and at times get a little teary.
I also try to pull in a lot of choices for my kids to have a say in what we do or what they read (when possible). One of the ways I’m giving them choices this year is by letting them pick their morning greeting. Last year, it was a fist bump for all. This year, they choose.
I’ve learned an important bit of information. What’s that you ask? Well, my 49-year-old body isn’t prepared to dab first thing of the morning. The past few days, I’ve only dabbed once or twice. Today? I think I dabbed at least a half dozen times. Another half dozen are big fans of starting the day with a hug. I did have one taker on “do a little dance” which is great because it gives a teacher who loves to laugh the right to be goofy in the hallway!
Another new thing I’ve pulled in is a “monthly challenge” for my students. This month’s is easy as it’s a Me-Collage like Judy Moody does in her first book. Other months they’ll be challenged to read an author they’ve never read or a genre that they don’t think they’re fans of at this point. I told them that each challenge I give them will likewise be a challenge for me as well. For instance, I’m not a fan AT ALL of historical fiction and science fiction [Seriously, I started making myself watch Star Wars movies last year when a fellow teacher was a big fan.], but I told them I’ll “make” myself read one that month in case my tastes have changed.
I could go on, but I really just need to get to the whole reason I wanted to write this post to begin with and that is….my new year. I don’t know if it’s my new crop of kiddos, the new schedule for my grade level, or the fresh attitude for a fresh school year….but I feel so blessed with this new crop of kiddos. I know everyday won’t be a breeze, but attitude makes such big difference. I may have done this 23 years previously, but this 24th year has the making of one of my best years yet! And for that reason….as well as the other things above….My teacher’s mug is running over!