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The Best First Week Ever

Yesterday ended the fourth first week of school in my teaching career thus far, and I can honestly say that this has been the BEST start I’ve ever had.

I walked into class the first day very nervous.  I’ve been told that veteran teachers get butterflies each year as well, so I knew I was normal in this respect.

Armed with a vision for the week and the structures and routines I wanted to train my students with, I began.

The first couple of days of school are traditionally the honeymoon phase where everyone, including the teacher, is on his/her best behavior, so it didn’t surprise me to see my students smiling, nodding their heads, and going with the flow.

What did surprise me was the way their enthusiasm continued throughout the week.

I kid you not.  It did not waver.  Not one little bit.

When the last bell rang on Friday, I was nearly in tears…not from being overwhelmed but from a sense of joy and hope.

Later that night, I wrote my students’ parents an email to update them about our week, and here is part of what I said:

The first week of school is over, and what a productive one it was!  We spent a lot of time working on classroom procedures and discussing expectations.  The students brainstormed ideas of what constitutes acceptable behaviors and habits of citizens of our community of learners.  They were insightful, and it was a privilege to watch them discuss, among their peers, why certain behaviors were more important than others.

My overarching question for the school year is:  What are we, as citizens of this community of learners, doing to prepare to be college/career ready.  It is my goal to keep the students focused on the bigger picture…the prize at the end of their high school journey.  I explained to them that by helping create the classroom behaviors (I am not using the word “rules” this year), they would “buy in,” take ownership, and do everything they could to help the classroom as a whole succeed.

There were a LOT of discussions among peers.  Research has proven that students who collaborate frequently show the greatest learning gains, learning to think at the highest levels cognitively.  This is another of my goals…to help them learn to think outside of the box.  Only when they do this, will they be able to analyze and understand the various types of text placed before them.

Students had the opportunity to earn three formative grades this week.  They wrote a letter to themselves the first day and described feelings (good and bad) about last year, concerns/feelings going into this year, goals for the year, and a plan to obtain their goals.  Their letters were candid and revealed so much of their hearts.  I was greatly touched by their writing.  I will return these letters at the end of the year.

Today, I took them to the computer lab to help them set up their Edmodo accounts, school-issued Gmail accounts, and Remind101 message subscriptions.  These are all technology tools that I will be using during the year.

I cannot tell you how happy I am with what I saw this week.  Your children were respectful…to me and to their classmates.  They were accepting, especially when we engaged in a Flocabulary discussion today (ask them how they feel about minors being restricted from using indoor tanning beds).

I saw eagerness in their eyes this week.  They want to succeed, and I strongly believe that they will.  They have already forged bonds, and I know that the sense of family we began developing this week will grow more and more throughout the year.

My mentor, Cinda, and I talked about what made the difference this year.  She asked if was my experience, knowledge of Kagan structures, and confidence.

While I feel that these factors did play a role, I told her that I thought it was God who had orchestrated the details…the combination of students…the grade I am teaching (nearly all tenth graders who are a lot more mature than incoming ninth graders).

I also think the success in my class can be attributed to my heart change that occurred this past summer…the new perspective gleaned from introspection.

I am rested.  I am seeing my students through new eyes.

But, again, that is all because of God, who graciously restored me.

It is my strongest desire that the rest of the year is equally exciting as I watch my students’ hearts and minds stretch.

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