All over Canada, and at many schools in North America, today is the first day of school. Doing the work that I do today, I did not realize that until I opened up Facebook this morning and was hit by a barrage of “the first day of grade _____” pictures all over my feed. The excitement on the faces of many students was contagious, but it also seemed that some parents were pretty happy to send their kids back to school as well 🙂
What I have been thinking about a lot lately is about how we maintain that “first-day” excitement in our students throughout the year? Although this is something that I do my best to support in my work, I know that this is not an easy task for educators and schools as there are so many variables in the lives of our students and ourselves that have an impact on our experience in school. My focus here is on how do we create an experience in school that is both joyous while challenging. The reason both elements are essential is that it is easier to “challenge” our students to grow in a space where they are excited to be in the first place. If a student hates coming to school every day, it is going to be a lot tougher to push them toward growth.
I was humbled when a former colleague and friend of mine shared that a picture from an article I wrote that is also featured in “Innovate Inside the Box” was shared in her school’s staffroom.
The focus of these suggestions in the image is to find ways within our work to,
a) build relationships with our students and caregivers, while creating a joyous environment for them and ourselves
b) we focus on knowing and serving the students in front of us, and
c) we build and tap into their strengths.
These ideas connect directly to a post I recently wrote that focuses on these three questions, which are my hopes for my own daughter’s school experience:
Will she feel valued in school?
Will her teachers look to find and bring out her talents and strengths, or only focus on developing things she struggles to do?
If she misses time in school, will she feel that her contributions are missed?
Again, none of what I have just shared is easy; teaching is extraordinarily hard work, and the only predictability in each day is that it will be different and there are so many obstacles educators face daily. As Todd Whitaker says, “The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day.” These thoughts are just a reminder for myself of why educators do what they do.
The first day and the last day of school for each year are the ones that are often most celebrated, but the days in between are the ones that often matter most.
It will always be hard to maintain that “first-day excitement,” but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.
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