As a teacher, I have a plethora of first days of school. Each one leaves an imprint that sets up the tone for a year of learning. As a reflective practitioner, I kept journals of every year that I taught. The night before each first day is spent writing about goals, fears, and expectations for the year. Not knowing what classes I was going to have always added to the fears of what I might accomplish. My goals and expectations were always high. Then the year would begin.
The first day was always a day of introductions, learning names and setting up our environment. There are a number of years in which the first day also set up the challenges I would have to face during the year.
My first day teaching was as a permanent substitute 6th-grade teacher in a school district. I started the day waking up to the radio program “Imus in the Morning”, where he jokingly announcing the time one hour ahead of the real time. Luckily I had a manual, cuckoo clock that showed the real time, so my panic lasted only a few minutes. In my first class, I announced how we could have a tough year or a great year and do great things. As I said this, I accidentally walked into a garbage can, knocking it over. “Like kicking over garbage cans,” I said, without skipping a beat.
Then there was the first day of school where we were learning names and each student had to say their name preceded by an adjective that described their name. I was Happy Harvey. All went well until we got to “Dave the Dick” student, “You know Dick Tidrow, a pitcher for the Yankees.” That was not what was going through my mind or most of the students.
There was the time I had a student who was class phobic and wouldn’t come to the classroom. He hid in the nurse’s office until one of the students in my class would coax him down to the room and all was fine, until the next day when we had to do it again. On the third day, I said that if he refused to come to the classroom, I would bring the class to him. I took the whole class down to the nurse’s office and did a lesson there (I had prepped the rest of the class to ignore him and just focus on the lesson). From that day on, he had no problem coming to class.
Having a selective mute in my class also created issues in finding an activity for learning names. She would talk to anyone but the teacher.
First days were different for a few years when I taught 4th and 5th-grade interage classes. For each of those years, most of the 5th graders in the class had me the previous year and that helped a bit. It also created some issues, that first day, since they already knew all my quirks (as I did theirs), so setting up new rules and expectations, with some new 5th graders and all new 4th graders, took a while.
First days continued until I retired. Now I’m a substitute teacher in lots of classrooms, so I get to experience a number of first days throughout the year. It does help though to have a good reputation with kids and stories to tell. The only difference now is that it is that much harder for me to remember names. But I still have my goals, fears, and expectations. Some I meet and others wait to be fulfilled as I continue to do the thing that I’ve always enjoyed doing, being a teacher/learner.