It Was the Night Before First Grade.

I have had a lot of the-first-night-before-school nights. Some as a student, but more now as a teacher. This year will mark my 15th first-night-before-school night.

I’ve been thinking about the ones past.

The first one, with my very first class, that graduated in 2012, was riddled with giddy excitement. I had been at this school for two years, and this was finally my big break – year one of grade two! Fourteen more years would follow.

The second one was riddled with anxiety. It was a new school in a new town. I knew no one. I was in my classroom until 9:30 pm the night before second grade that year.

Later ones were riddled with a mixture of anxiety, excitement, purpose, and fresh energy. I don’t much remember specifically those nights but they are there, in my memory.

After getting a few years of experience in second grade, that first night before the first day was just normal anxiety. I knew what the first day was going to look like, sound like, feel like.

And I know that every year, on the first night before school, it was hard to sleep. Excitement, nervousness, just wanting to get that first day behind me. People never believe me, but I am an introvert and new situations are uncomfortable for me. I need to settle in, not jump in. The first day is definitely jumping in!

Tonight, I do not know. I am tired and I know that I will sleep.

But.

Tonight, it’s a little like being new all over again.

I know I can do this. And I know it’s going to be an awesome day tomorrow.

The reality is, I’ve had 15 first days. They just happened to be in the same grade level. First Day #16 is a grade level lower, and it’s going to be different. But I’ll figure it out. I always do.

 

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Welcome to Room 105.

Today.

Today, the room is ready.

Ready for kids.

Ready for learning.

Ready for new adventures.

The room is ready.

I am ready.

Today, I feel more ready than I have since committing to teach first graders.

Today, I feel extremely hopeful.

Today, I feel secure.

Today, I feel like, I can do this.

There is so much love in this room. Previous Teacher helped when she left everything there for me, ready for me. Husband helped when he moved everything where it needed to be. Girlfriend helped when she organized, labeled, and let. Next Door Neighbor is there, with her smile, her laugh, her friendship, her collegial guidance. Guardian Angel is there, watching.

I have my books. I have my supplies.

I’m ready.

Let’s do this first grade rock and roll show!

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Room 105 – Day 3

Today, I thought I was going to throw up. Literally. Throw up. Vomit. Toss my cookies. Up-chuck. I could not get my brain wrapped around this new room, this new space. Where the hell was it all going to go?  Where were all of my books going to live? Where would all of the learning magic happen? Where were all of the materials going to be stored?

This isn’t second grade. Second grade is over. I did second grade. I have years of second grade in my head. I’m in first grade now. These kids are even littler. This is their first full-day school experience. They are coming in one way, and they are going to leave another way. I get to be part of this. I want them to love their new classroom, their new classmates, their new learning journey.

I watched the clock ticking away. Laughing at me. Taunting.

One of my goals, going into first grade, was to make my classroom a truly literate environment where every single child has access to great books, not in just one spot (“the classroom library”) but everywhere through the room. I wanted books- leading to a love of reading – to permeate this learning space.

I also wanted writing to be possible everywhere in the room.

And I wanted a sense of community and belonging threaded throughout.

At noon today, I was still feeling waist-deep in uncertainty.

Hours passed. I worked. I thought. I worked some more.

4:00 hit. I think I might be getting really close to those goals!

This is Room 105 on Day 3.

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The meeting rug.

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Length of the classroom from half across the room, looking to the entry of the class next door.

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Desk space. Four groups of 4.

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The front of the classroom, about half. Great storage shelving behind that curtain!

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The other half. A round rug is hopefully going in so the kids can have this little reading corner.

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My desk area with a hall window in front, another storage space behind curtains, and my teaching table, for Guided Reading, mainly.

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View from the front.

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My desk.

Room 105 – Day 2

Girlfriend joined me for the second day in a row, and I am so grateful for her company, her help, and her patience. It’s not easy being in a sweltering-hot classroom with not very much to do all day but this little lady did it! We enjoyed our lunches together in the Teacher’s Room, and she loved walking around the building by herself – she’s been coming here with me since she was 2; this was the first year I let her go where she needed to go (bathroom, vending machine, for a walk) by herself.

There were moments through the day when I believed “this” wasn’t going to get done. I had so much stuff (not really) and so little space (totally false) and limited time (truth to the maximum).

I left after 6 hours. The bones were laid. But nothing was set. This is what it was:

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#TMILMT – The Moment I Loved Most Today

Monkey is getting so big, so fast. He’s so smart. A year ago, I wasn’t confident about anything that related to him. I was still getting to know him. Now, he just fits in our family. Life without him, life before him, doesn’t seem possible. He knows we’re his people. He adores Girlfriend, whom he calls “Sister.” He wants to do what she does. He goes where she goes.

The other day, we were cooking in the kitchen. Of course, he was right there helpin’ out!

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Room 105 – Day 1

We arrived later than I had planned. But that was okay. It was going to get done. Husband was there, Girlfriend was there, Monkey was hopefully starting to enjoy his first day at his own school with his teachers and friends.

All of my “stuff” that had been packed away last June from 2nd grade was in there, waiting…waiting now to be unpacked, moved, placed, maybe even discarded.

It took a couple of hours, but finally, I think the bones are set.

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The Back-to-School Catalog (and other memories of returning to school)

Ending summer and heading back to school was always a source of excitement for me, growing up. I loved summer, but I also loved the anticipation of a new year, new teachers, new friends, new everything. It was such a time of hope. Hope for getting smarter, getting older, getting … better than I was the year before.

Preparations for returning to school changed over the years, but always the same was the excitement and the hope.

As a child, I knew summer was near its end when the JCPenney Catalog arrived in the mail. The Fall issue, the one with all of the back-to-school clothing ensembles in appealing earth tones, inspired me to wonder who I would be this year. I would take it from the mailbox, carry it gingerly into the house, and sit down with a pen, circling all of the things I hoped my mom would order for me in time for school. She always got me a few of the things I wished for. Back in the 80’s, we had to order with a paper form, and mail it in. Then, we’d have to wait for the store to call to announce the arrival of the items. It was torture, waiting for that phone call! When the call finally came, down to the store we’d go, and it seemed to take forever to get there. Opening up the packages, that new clothing smell would escape. Usually, the clothing fit, and they would become mine.

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In addition to ordering a few outfits from the catalog, my mother took us school shopping. We didn’t have a large mall, just a small one, so we went to Bradley’s, which was our department store, and the biggest store at the mall. Kohl’s is there now. We bought shoes at Thom McAn, also in the mall. We went to XPect Discounts for school supplies. I loved buying new notebooks and pencils. They represented so many new possibilities!

My sister and I were subscribers to Highlights Magazine. Every August, that end of summer issue had stories and poems related to the return of school. There was one story I loved, about two girls who’d been friends for many years and always in the same class, but this year, that changed when they were placed in separate classes. They promised that being apart would not interfere with their friendship. But when one of the girls makes a new friend, that promise is jeopardized, or so it seems. After spending some time apart, the three girls end up being good friends and having a wonderful school year, together. Friendships were always somewhat tenuous for me. As now, I disliked confrontation, jealousy, and insecurity in friendships. But I didn’t know how to deal with such things. I loved the hope of that story.

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When we left school on the last day in June, we didn’t know who our next year’s teacher was going to be, or which kids would be in our class. We waited all summer and found out a couple of days prior to the new year. The NEWSPAPER would announce that the lists were available and hanging on the front doors of the elementary school. My mother would drive my sister and I down to our school and with excruciating excitement, we’d run up to the doors, eagerly searching for our names to find out who the new teacher was, who the new classmates and friends were going to be.

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Once in high school, I wore a uniform so there was no back-to-school shopping, just getting new notebooks and reading lists. Backpacks were backpacks, and I used the same one. I loved receiving the new syllabus for certain classes, like English and Writing classes. That same excitement was in the air. New hope, new possibilities. My friends and I would have last-minute get-togethers and talk about the upcoming year.

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Finally, in college, the end of summer arrived as we moved back into our dorms, picked up our new schedules, and purchased our new books. Most of us hadn’t seen each other since mid-May, and I swear, we always came back somehow changed from who we were the year before, whether it was a new style, or new hair, or a new relationship, or … .

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Well, I’m out of school now, and there are no more first days for me (as a student, anyway), but every August, I find myself reaching back into my mind to retrieve those wonderful memories. I can see them, I can smell them, I can feel them. Maybe because that part of my growing up was so significant for me, maybe because I’m now a teacher welcoming the kids who undoubtedly share the same excitements I once had, maybe it’s because I have my own child who thrills with the excitement of going back to school. Maybe it’s all those things.

The reality is, summer ends every year, and every year, someone is going back to school. In my mind, I do, too.