If you can’t tell by my spectacular written form of this instrument, this is the sound of a drum.
What drum am I speaking of, exactly?
THE drum. The sound of the school year (rapidly) approaching.
Oh, and the school dreams have appeared like clockwork. I AM NOT EVEN JOKING when I say in my dream the other night, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education was with me all day in my classroom.
If that’s not a nightmare, I don’t know what is.
(I’m sure he didn’t appear in my dreams because of his wonderful education legislation he’s impeded all summer long. No, that can’t be it).
Nausea-inducing dreams aside, I am so, so excited for the new year. Change will be the theme and as Sheryl Crow says, “A change can do ya good…”
Time for a musical interlude, class.
I am teaching first grade for the first time this year and I’ll be the first one to say, I’m stoked!
Don’t get me wrong. I loved teaching second grade. They are such a fun age group, as that is the age where students are more independent, but still voluntarily give their teacher a hug on their way to the bus or car line. (By the way, my first class ever are now fifth graders and will be leaving for the middle school at the end of the year. Just mop me up on 5th grade graduation day).
First grade is special, though. That is the grade where those six and seven year-old boys and girls learn to escape through the wonderful world of books. As my first-grade-teaching-mama-says, “Those babies learn to read.” I am completely aware it will be more challenging, but I’m up for it. Plus, I have a fabulous team, friends, and mama to help me along the way.
Our sweet school is also undergoing a much-needed, major face-lift (she was beginning to show her 50+ years of age) and it has been so fun to watch the expansion as the year has progressed. I would be lying if I said I haven’t been a tad bit jealous of teacher friends at other schools who have been spent a few summer days in their classrooms arranging desks, putting up bulletin boards, and transforming that boring classroom door into a work of art, but all of that will come.
If anything, it’s been a timely reminder for me. Sure, all of that is important, and you can bet I’ll be sprucing up the place as soon as I can. But it’s not the reason I’m there.
I attended a fabulous inservice a few days ago (yes, they do exist). The gist of it was how to help students from low-income areas thrive at school. And you know what the number one way is for these students (and all students) to succeed?
It wasn’t specific reading strategies.
It wasn’t how to implement Common Core.
It wasn’t differentiating instruction.
It wasn’t practicing bubbling in bubbles for a test.
It wasn’t preaching test-taking strategies.
It wasn’t even achieving a high score on a test.
Are those important? Sure. But none of it will have any impact on the student if I don’t build a relationship with him or her. I’m there for those students who need me. Listen to them. Find out their interests. Ask something specific about their weekend. Tell them something about myself.
It’s not like this was breaking news to me. I’ve always known that and I hope all of my students and families I’ve been blessed to have over the past three years knew that was my top priority.
However, it’s so easy to lose sight of it. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in test scores, evaluations, deadlines, benchmarks, emails, etc. It’s so easy to let your mind wander when you hear more and more bad news about education on the 10 o’clock news every night.
Guilty as charged.
When really? All of that is not why I chose teaching as my profession. I believe in the importance of collecting data, but it’s not why I chose teaching. I believe in creating a learning environment, but it’s not why I chose teaching. I believe in learning the best instructional strategies there are for the benefit of my students, but it’s not why I chose teaching.
I chose teaching because I love children. I don’t want to be their friend; I want to be a role model in their life when they may not have one. I want them to see the potential I see in each of one of them in their own selves. I want them to see why education is so important and how nobody can take that away from them. I want to create a safe, happy place where they feel loved and valued.
(I’m sorry, it was getting a little heavy in here).
So long story longer, this is my mindset as I start the year. I am going to focus on building that relationship and trust with my kids. Believe it or not, us teachers need that reminder more than ever.
After all, that’s the first step in getting those babies to read.
Just remind me of this when it feels like August 53rd.
Happy School Year to all of my educator friends!