Monday, July 16, 2018

Tick Tock...

Twelve days ago my superintendent posted this on Twitter:

What this means is that my brain begins to return to the classroom and my new students, even if my body isn't quite rested enough yet to do the same. And yet, registration began. I pulled up my new class lists and got excited to see some familiar names, sad that I didn't get to teach other kids I knew. It is the dance we do every July.

As I begin to think of the school year and getting ready, I also see fabulously decorated classrooms, fancy bulletin boards, gorgeous worksheets posted online. Each time, my heart sinks a bit. When I was in grad school back in 1997 I had a teacher named Barb Dress. She told us that our only job of "decorating" the classroom was to ensure the shell was ready for the kids to come in, but it was their room. No premade posters, no gorgeous bulletin boards, none of it. She said we needed to be working on the feeling that being part of our classroom community would give kids. How did we plan to build our classroom family? How would kids feel accepted? How would they know it was a safe place?

Last week I spent several days with former students. There were kids at my house to hang out with Luke and Liam, and they were there at all of Liam's basketball games. I thought of each of them, how some don't fit the "vision" for a model student, but how much I loved them and worried about them as they prepare to begin this next school year. I started thinking about community, belonging, why they had a successful year, or why they hadn't. And then, I thought of sports.

My boys have been a part of many sports teams over the years: soccer, flag football, basketball, football, swim team, baseball, cross country, and track. They had amazing experiences in all of them, but the ones that they still talk about are when the coaches elevated the team family over winning. Even in the more individual sports, the team comes first. In those teams, the family of the team is cultivated. Issues are not ignored, but addressed immediately. Team building is central to their time together, not an after thought. These are the teams that my boys have excelled when they were a part of. The seasons that they cannot wait to begin and are sad when they are done. These are the coaches my boys will work the hardest for day in, day out, all season (and off season) long.

I need to remember this in the classroom. Student learning is, of course, why I have a job. But the community, the family of our classroom, comes first. The kids need to know when they walk in our room that they are wanted and accepted here. That they might have had a bad experience in the past, but this year is their fresh start. I need to let all kids know that we lift our classmates up, never tear them down. Thirty-six days left. I cannot wait to get started.