Today was my fourth first day as a teacher. It occurred to me this morning that that’s more than I had as a student (unless you count pre-school, which I don’t). Yep – I only went to 3 schools k-grad. I was never the “new kid.” I was having a hard time. I still don’t feel prepared for the year. I wasn’t upset this morning, but I was definitely nervous. I just felt off.
The first first day was in 2001. Fresh and sparkly out of grad school I was ready to take 5th grade by storm. My classroom was just so cute and the days spent decorating were just so fun. The other 5th grade teacher was in year 2 and my same age. We became best friends pretty much immediately. I’m sure there were crafty things and ice-breakers ready to go. I don’t remember much of what went on on the first day, but I vividly remember going downstairs with my friend to meet the kids who were lined up outside, looking at her, and saying, “ok, but when we get back upstairs what the heck are we supposed to do with them?” I survived.
The second first day came in 2004. I had moved back home to CA from Boston that summer. My attempts at finding a job in Southern CA didn’t work out. I had met with a principal or two when I had been home at Easter, but they had no open positions. I got home from driving cross country in mid-July, turned around and went back to Boston to be in a wedding on July 31st, and then came home to no job and no prospects. I took a job at Sylvan just for something to do (I hated it and kept calling in sick that fall due to the Red Sox playoff run. JK – I didn’t call in sick, but I did tell them to not schedule me. Priorities). Right around the start of the year a vice principal called and asked me to come in. Turns out they had someone who wanted to leave her position as computer/ math teacher at Christmas. Basically my “interview” went like this, “can you show kids how to use word and excel? can you teach pre-algebra? cool. It’s yours if you want it.” Once the teacher knew there was someone to take her place, she happily decided to leave in September instead, so I had my second first day. It was different because I started by working with the outgoing teacher for a week or two so she could show me what I needed to do. It was also a much different first day because I wasn’t there for the kids’ first day!
My third first day came in 2009. I do not remember it at all. But what I do know is that the entire middle school team was new. We all were connected to each other in different ways because of the high school I attended. We were a family from day one. We had met and planned and bonded in the home of our lead teacher. We began from day one as a strong, solid unit. On the first day, the students all met in the church. The faculty was introduced. The new students were introduced. The Kindergarteners came up to the front with their parents and headed off on a new adventure. It was a beautiful way to start each year.
The fourth first day was today. I woke up thinking about the kiddos at my old school. I really started to miss them – especially the 8th graders. I posted on facebook a wish that they had a great year (I’m friends with many of the moms) and that I would soon love my new students as much as I loved the students I left behind. I got to school and didn’t really even know how the day was supposed to begin. I got there later than I’m used to, so some of the students were already there. I felt like the mystery woman. I went into my classroom to get ready. We split the kids into 2 math groups, but I didn’t want to do that on the first day (fun, related story below). So the combined math classes were going to meet in my room. The other teacher who was familiar to the kids would start things off, but then I would do the lessons. I checked out the computer and everything to make sure I was all good and I had a few visits from parents coming in to introduce themselves. As I was chatting with one of them, morning assembly began. We went outside to find the kids lining the corridor. We said prayer and pledge and had announcements. I had about 10 minutes before the class came. I scrolled through twitter notifications and saw people cheering me on and I scrolled through Facebook and saw many first day photos of my former students. It did get me down. I missed them. I missed my friends.
The 8th graders were the first to come in. I met them at the door with Uno cards and explained that they should find the whiteboard with the matching number and if they had a wild card they got to choose. The other teacher spoke to them. I asked them how many had been new kids at some point, and only a few raised their hands. I told them that I was the new kid and I was nervous. New kids who aren’t used to me, basically being observed by the other teacher…. ugh. Anyway, I started Robert’s In N’ Out lesson as re-imagined by Hedge and I was off. It was great. The nerves were gone and I was back doing what I was comfortable doing. The kids were obviously engaged because why wouldn’t they be? They were talking about cheeseburgers. Behavior wasn’t awesome, but it was a novelty that they were all together, first day as 8th graders, new weird teacher, etc. When we split them I will get them in line! As Hedge did when she presented to admins, I focused a lot on the SMPs, not as much (yet) on the math. We only got about halfway through, but that’s ok, we’ll finish tomorrow. I’m not sure the kids are convinced they did math, but it’s like those parents who sneak the spinach into the brownies, right? Get them chatting about cheeseburgers and pretty soon they’ve experienced most of the SMPs without even knowing it! Sixth grade and Seventh grade came and it was basically same story, next chapter. One of the 6th grade boys came up and hugged me and said, “thank you. this was so fun and I’m so excited.” Thanks kid, you have no idea how much I needed that. Another 6th grader, as i was handing out the Uno cards, says, “you must be a really fun teacher.” Uno cards… who knew they were so fun. In the different classes a number of kids asked if I knew their parents/cousins/aunts and uncles/ members of teams, etc. I did. The school I am at is heavily populated by families of alums from my high school and my brother’s, so this was not unexpected. I looked at one and said, “you’re a _______ aren’t you?” He said yes and asked how I knew. I told him I went to hs with his mom and he’s a twin of his father. It will be fun to get to know this new generation of families I know!
A few of the parents from my old school left really sweet messages on Facebook wishing me a great day and telling me how missed I am. One of the moms of a girl who I am particularly close to told me that her daughter didn’t even want to go in my old classroom because I wasn’t there. I need to hear that, but I also know it’s time to start developing that relationship with this new crop. It takes time. I’m used to having a 4 year relationship, which is what I will have again. But getting there is hard.
When I interviewed for this job, Kathy told me to make a digital portfolio. I did, and one of the things that I had on there was pictures of Robert’s In n’ Out lesson. So on the day of our first faculty meeting, the other teacher came in and we were talking. He says – you have to share that In n’ Out thing with me. I remember that from your interview (which he was a part of) and it looked so great. So me being me, I kind of said, well actually I was thinking maybe that was a good way to start the year. He agreed and I was saved from having to give the poor kiddos a test on the first day of school. The teacher seems interested in these types of problems, so I’m excited to be able to share and work with him. Welcome to the #MTBoS, other teacher 🙂