temporary small town
As I wrote about last time, I'm currently in the particular transition of starting at a new school, but I've also been noticing and thinking about the start of the school year in general.
The beginning of the school year is hard. 20-150+ students are plucked from their widely varied everydays and placed into a room with you, where you will spend 9 months creating a small town to live and work in together.
In teaching school and books they tell you: "You must set up routines right or you'll regret it! You must be very clear or you will suffer all year! Do it right or everything else will be less effective!" These things are true, and helpful to know. But I think the best thing I've read about the beginning of the year was on a teacher social media feed recently, when a woman admitted, "I'm just gonna say it: I hate the beginning of the year! It is SO hard." And it is, and I found it really helpful and comforting for a more experienced teacher to acknowledge that.
The amount of emotional agility required to hold space for all these lives and for all these fledgling relationships is immense. It's hard. I won't say I hate it, but it's so challenging in ways that the rest of the year is not. It's beautiful hard messy complex work.
I'm not a parent, but maybe you are, and maybe you'd consider trying this: if I were a parent of a school-age kid, I'd send a note about now, noticing something nice or kind or caring or fun that I've seen or heard my child's teacher do. Maybe even something teeny-tiny or silly but it just might be a sweet boost in the midst of some really hard big-hearted and difficult work. "I see you and the community you are building." "I see you trusting and believing in my kid." "I see you helping kid to do ____ / or to not to ____ ..." "My kid told me that weird/strange/touching/fun/silly/sad thing you learned about in class... Thanks for that." I think that could be pretty nice and might add some strength to help the small town grow.
We are now into October and past the initial rush of welcoming and sharing rituals and routines. Names and faces are together (or mostly together, depending on your subject and student load) in teacher brains and we could tell you what we understand so far about student habits and personalities. In each class period's small town we have some idea of how we will work in the space together until June. Nearly everyone knows where to find a pencil if they need one, and how we work during different types of activities.
We are almost to fall break, which is a good milestone that the "just starting" part is over. But I also think back to what I understood of my students at this time last year, and how differently I knew them by the end of the year, and I know there is a lot of social-emotional joy and figuring-out and adventuring still ahead as our small town comes together.