Firsts

Every year before the first day of school, the nightmares start. Usually it is some version of me in front of my classroom, which is filled with too many students, unable to get anyone’s attention. In the worst of these dreams, my principal does a surprise first day observation.

Luckily, the first day is never like that. On my first day, the students were on their best behavior, pencils were in abundance, and I had the most patience I will ever have this year. But the first day this year reminded me that there were lots of other firsts happening that day.

The first day to make a good impression. For me, it is all about getting to know my students and showing them that I care, building those relationships. I am pretty good with names, so the first day is filled with putting faces to the new names on my roster and showing students I am going to remember who they are. I made mistakes, but I think the kids see I am trying and appreciate it. I practice over and over again until they’re solidified in my brain for the next day.

The first day to make a new impression. For students who had a rough previous year, this is their first chance to turn over a new leaf, to be a different person. You can see it when they sit there on that first day, on their best behavior, hoping this year will be different. I have heard stories about some of the students sitting in my room, and I know their potential to be troublemakers. That first day is their chance to start again, and I hope that I give them that chance when they walk in my door.

The first day to set expectations. I think more and more teachers are ditching the first day syllabus dump to build relationships and establish class routines. It is a concept so important that tons of books have been written on setting up those parameters. I use the first day to show students what class feels like, where we turn work in, and my expectations for group work and participation. Getting students into those routines helps make for a smooth start to the year.

The first day to figure out a career. I am hosting my first student teacher since changing schools and it threw me back to my first day of student teaching; the nerves and excitement all mingling together. I am excited to start the first day with my student teacher, so she will get to see how the year gets shaped. Hopefully I can help her see that teaching is a career worth pursuing.

The first day of school is an exciting, sometimes anxiety filled day for teachers and students alike, and it is an important day for starting the year off right. But don’t worry if your lesson doesn’t go perfectly, if you get blank stares from your students, if you mess everything up. You have 179 more days to get it right.

 

Rachel Perugini

I am originally from Pennsylvania where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Shippensburg University. In 2012, I moved to Arizona to teach on the Navajo Reservation; I liked the state so much I decided to stay. I taught language arts, reading, and journalism for three years at Many Farms High School. During that time, I earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Reading. In 2015, I moved to Flagstaff where I currently teach 10th and 11th grade English. I have been an avid reader all my life, so I love that my job gives me that chance to read amazing books with my students all day long.

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