Monday, January 7, 2019

First Day Back

Part of today's post was written on Sunday, January 6, 2019.
Part of today's post was written on Monday, January 7, 2019.

Why? Because a true reflection on the "first day back" needs to happen on the actual first day back from winter vacation.

Part One

On Twitter, there was a debate, as there often is, about how to respond to your students and about how to respond publicly, to approaching breaks and the end of breaks. I won't share the original message that Matthew Oldridge refers to in his tweet - it was a judgmental one from an "education thought leader" who criticized teachers who post "TGIF" or "hooray for snow days" messages. These two tweets I've embedded here were good reminders for me about perspective.

(In case you can't read them, the first says "We return to the schoolhouse on Monday. Some kids will be bursting to share their breaks with you. Some kids will be dying for a hug. Some kids will need to shake off the cobwebs. Allow for it all. Connection over curriculum on Monday". The second says "I will probably never get that blue check and guru/thoughtleader/keynote dolla dolla bills if I say this, but let me just say: it's okay to feel intensely sad at the end of a beautiful vacation with friends, family, your own thoughts, nice food, time to read, and so on.")

These posts, and ones from my friend Lisa Noble, made me consider: how should I approach the first day? This is not a new thought for me. I looked back and in 2012 I made a pro/con list about reserving time specifically for students to talk about their time away from school and I remember admiring how Kerri Commisso constructed time that respected both those that wanted to share and those that didn't. Andrew Campbell said, in part of his tweet on the matter,

Many of our students will also be feeling sad that vacation is over. Being in the same "place" as they are is a point of connection. It helps you to relate to your students, and they to you.

Another useful tweet came from Jeewan C. (Note that it says "Remember that the break isn't always a "holiday" and not all students / adults have / want to share what happened. Think about How are you? Did you have a chance to do something you liked / enjoyed while away?)

Confession time: I actually don't have my lesson plans written for this upcoming week. I know what I want to do: provide time for students to do the final assignment in our communications / emoji unit, give time to play with some of the new items I'm bringing in to the school (my daughter purged her room and some of these things are just too good to give away) and plan with the students how to approach the Forest of Reading this year. But I need to play it by ear. Will I do the community circle topic of "use one word to describe your time away from school", or as I saw somewhere on Twitter, focus on the "who" of the break rather than the "what" or "where"?

Part Two

 So, how was the first day back? Good! It began in an odd way - I have 16 traffic lights between home and school, and today, I hit 12 red lights. What is the probability of that happening? (Where are you Matthew Oldridge to help me figure that out?)

My car was full of stuffed unicorns, a new sewing machine and a skinny pig.

View from the opened hatchback of my car
Like I do every morning, I stood at the main back entrance and greeted the students as they entered. The children had more to say about the current weather than they did about their time away from school. I had expected a full library during recess because the cold tends to drive up the number of recess visitors, but the student announcers accidentally read an old bulletin from December stating that the library was closed at recess, so it was much quieter than usual. I chatted briefly with some staff members (including ones that had been absent in December) to catch up on how they were doing, and had my usual SERT coverage time. The kindergarteners and other primary students really liked exploring the unicorns and the kindies tinkered during media with some "old technology" - Flip video cameras. We had our first Comics Club meeting at lunch for the Grade 7-8s, with a smaller group because many were understandably unprepared for a club meeting on the first day back. I was grateful that my adult library volunteer came in this afternoon to handle the back-to-back-to-back book exchange and the students were content to take turns working on their emoji names. My prep times were used to send a note with an extra fidget maze to someone and to get our Forest of Reading 2019 passports updated. I stayed late after school to set up a hall display.

Students from Rm 117 trying out the unicorns

Fans in Rm 114 bonding with the new equine additions
So, any great insights? One might be that I sometimes overthink things! Another may be that it's nice to have a bit of time at the start of the day to get reacquainted with each other, but it doesn't take long and can be determined by those involved - it can be nice to "hit the ground running" and quickly get back into the swing of things. We've got the ball hockey tournament coming up, and assessments to conclude so we can write report cards, and new clubs, and Forest of Reading books to read. It was the first day back but the routine still fits and the rest made me ready for more.

1 comment:

  1. You're amazing. Our check in question this morning was what was one thing you enjoyed on the break. Lots of low key answers - time with family, sleeping in - which was lovely. We did a mix of community rebuilding activities and some focused finish up work (reports are LOOMING). I don't think I did as well checking in with staff, so that's for tomorrow. It was really a gift to me to have people expressing the fact that it was alright to be feeling ambivalent about returning to work. Sometimes I judge myself harshly about feeling that way.