Friday, September 7, 2007

No First Week Jitters! Just Running to Keep Up!

A new school year has officially begun! Well, for me, it began several weeks ago. This was after two weeks of being off, once I was finished teaching summer school and taking a graduate course at W&M. I spent eight days traveling on a whirlwind road trip, and the remainder of a week doing “must do” things around the house and in my life, before I was sucked into the vortex of the fever of a new school year. I always go back a week earlier than I have to as a teacher, because there is ABSOLUTELY no way on Earth that I could reconstruct my classroom, in all of its organization and management, during the week that we have to be back as a staff member. However, that’s okay. My way is the way that works for me. I ease into a school year, and get my hands and head busy instead of worrying about all the things that will need to be done and making a “to do” list that would unravel like a scroll when I released it. Plus, I get to feather my nest and decorate, and I love my “design on a dime” mentality, which I picked up from my creative mother. There’s no time to worry about organizing closets and what arrangement would work best for the classroom library at the beginning of the year. I still am holding fast to my idealism and (somewhat) rested state of mind, my brain still full of the wet ink of freshly imprinted ideas scanned from the pages of professional language arts books new to my collection. I feel like I start the year on my terms, not all the new and old demanding terms of the cut and dry realities. My fresh hopes and excitements only serve to benefit my future class, and so it is what I do.

This week, I began by setting the tone for the way the classroom community runs. I have molded behaviors which displayed the potential to head in the right direction, reinforced good risk taking as thinkers, and complimented good work efforts. I also nipped a few buds before they could even think about bursting into growing into weedy behaviors. I’m always the most structured at the beginning of a new school year. As you can guess, the first week is always exhausting, and I come home physically tired each day. I think that I find it just as much mentally exhausting, because it is at this time of year more than any other time that I have to really train behavior choices and start laying the bricks and mortar for the foundation of deeper, reflective thinking. It is always an investment to explain extremely explicitly, very slowly, in a focused, concise fashion on what to do for everything from using the hall passes to how to organize your folder. I leave no stone unexplained or unturned three times before I tell them “Now you know exactly what to do with that for the rest of your second grade life. Great!” My new students are in the infancy of seeing glimpses of my humor and personality, and those slow peeks and thin peelings away of layers intrigues them, and I use that mystery to help them appreciate what I have to say, and for what we have to learn together on our second grade journey. Of course, I shared my “secret talent” of baton twirling with them today (Friday.) They left the room with eyes as big as saucers and full of questions, which I will conveniently have to answer on Monday! ;) We read First Day Jitters, Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10, My Teacher’s Secret Life, Wolf!, and Ruby the Copycat. I also threw in the bonus read aloud Froggy Plays in the Band. (Can anyone guess why I read that Thursday to give a clue about my “talent” and make a secret text-to-self connection to? If you don't know this particular selection, then you MUST check it out and meet Miss Frogilina, majorette extrodinaire!) We read Officer Buckle and Gloria, a perennial favorite of mine, where we wrote our own individual safety tips and drew pictures of Gloria reenacting what it would literally look like if you didn’t follow our tips. I told the students that the Kindergarten classes always come by and read our door, so we better give really good advice! We completed the little project with name tags in star shapes to place next to the collaged work pieces on the classroom door, in honor of my little friend and cutie minor character Claire, who was ever so smart to always wear her safety helmet. Even though it was not very fashion forward, safety comes at a price, and my girl Claire has her priorities in order!

We practiced just thinking, listening to my thinking aloud, answering my scaffolded questioning, turning to neighbors and pondering posed inquiries. We are taking baby steps, but before you can run, you learn to walk, and we learned to walk because crawling became too inefficient for us. We’re ready to move, to explore, and to see things at a different level than way low to the ground. We’re grasping up higher, realizing that “Hey! There’s more to see up there! Wow! I have to get a hang of this!” I’m ready to run right along side them. Let me go write “pack sneakers for Monday” on my “to do” scroll!

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