Why I love the first day back

08.02.13 | Learning on the EDge | 0 Comments

By John T. Spencer

I’m not the typical teacher when it comes to getting back to school. I don’t wander the aisles getting excited about binders and sticky notes. I don’t go to the teacher store and buy posters with Garfield (a strange choice for motivating students, given his laziness and propensity to put off learning in a quest for lasagna).

I don’t really love the start of the school year, for that matter. I have a hard time learning the names, and I find myself worn out by the task of teaching procedures. Moreover, I struggle with the new rules and initiatives and paperwork that come with a new school year.

I find myself smiling often, getting almost giddy about the start of the school year.

However, something happens when I step into the room for the first time. The tables are turned upside down, and everything is in boxes, and the walls are bare, and it feels, in the moment, like I’m in a moving into a new house.

And on some level, that’s what it is. It’s a new community that can sometimes feel like a home. It’s a chance to design the space so that it’s welcoming to students. So, even though I spend the day in tasks that I find somewhat monotonous, I get excited. I get hopeful. Not in an overly idealistic way, but in that real hope, that time-tested hope, of remembering that I am lucky to have this job.

It becomes a visual reminder of a fresh start. Although I might be filling out file folders or hanging up artwork, I am thinking about my students and the projects we’ll do and the conversations we’ll have. I find myself smiling often, getting almost giddy about the start of the school year.


About John T. Spencer

JOHN T. SPENCER (john@educationrethink.com) teaches journalism  in a middle school in Phoenix, Ariz. His column “In practice: Teaching” appears four times a year in Kappan.

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