It’s the first day of the new school year, and I shyly shuffle into class clutching my new pencils and a backpack that I don’t yet know where to put. It’s only been two months since I was last in school, but it feels like a lifetime- and there are so many things to worry about. Will the math be hard this year? Is Sara still my friend? Will I have to sit by the bully? What if I answer a question wrong? What if they laugh at me? Will my teacher be nice? What if I don’t belong?
All I want is to feel welcome.
But instead of a “Welcome” that feels like a reassuring presence and makes me excited for this new experience, I hear a terse robotic “Welcome”. One of a string of impersonal greetings to my fellow classmates and I, as we are handed a knowledge-gauging test disguised as a ‘fun’ worksheet, and told to find our designated seat, and sit quietly, sit quietly, sit quietly.
I didn’t understand the instructions, but am too shy to ask the teacher. I ask my seatmate instead, but am berated for talking out of turn because “respectful communication is important in this classroom”.
I hand my worksheet into the wrong bin, and am publically reprimanded for not reading the sign that says ‘out’. The class laughs. I return to my seat with my face red and my heart pounding in my throat.
We play a getting to know you game. I don’t want to hold hands with these children, but “you need to participate”. By the end of the game I still don’t know anyone’s name, but my palms are sweaty and I want to cry.
The teacher calls me by a nickname I dislike. I correct her, but she continues using it. My classmates have now begun to use this nickname too.
I label my green folder Math and my blue folder Science. “Proper organization is important in this classroom”. I mixed up the colors.
There is a traffic light in the corner. If the class gets too loud it turns yellow. Every time it turns red we lose a minute of recess. I worry that if I cough it will turn red and my classmates will be mad at me, so I hold it in.
We are told that good behavior gets us tickets for a raffle. Sara gets a ticket. I don’t.
I have so many questions.
“I said put your hand down, you can ask questions later”.
I go home.
I wish I didn’t have to return tomorrow.
The first day back is stressful for any teacher. New students, new classroom, maybe a new grade or curriculum. But no matter if you teach Kindergarten or Grade 12, the first day of school is often one of the most intimidating and stressful experiences for students. There is a long to-do list that every teacher has for the first day. Beginning classroom management, setting out rules and procedures, seeing where your students are at academically… But be aware of your language, your demeanor, the energy you create in your classroom.
This is your most stressful day of the school year, consider it is for your students too.
This is a great video if you’d like some more food for thought about how students experience the school environment.
If you’d like to talk about effective classroom discussion with your students, consider downloading my free interactive notebook