Tagged: first day of school

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TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #3

Despite the disappointments, I love the start of school

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Today is the first day of the new school year. I love beginnings. The start of the year is so much fun. I’ve got dreams for my students and my classroom.

This year, new technology is coming to students. New content obtained over the summer from three weeks of professional development and two online classes is also on the way. Then there is the energy from students excited about the start of a new year. Even the new superintendent gives an inspirational speech, which gets a curtain call.

Trying to get to sleep last night was tough. It was hot, and I was nervous about the first day of staff meetings. But when the alarm went off at 6:00am, I still bounced out of bed. As I drove up to the school, there’s an earthquake. Moving earth is always exciting and seemed to be a good sign. But it is almost as if the earth sets events on an irreversibly negative trajectory. My new electronic key not only opens the school door, it sets off the building alarm, which was just repaired.

Thirty minutes later, I get to my classroom and find a peculiarly strong odor greeting me at the doorstep. I ask random people for the use of their noses. What is that smell? Ignoring the putrid odor, I turn to the blank wall in my room where new art will hang. It is so dirty; tape and heavy duty 3M products won’t stick. I’ve brought a mop to clean it, and soon there is a bucket of dirty water and a wet, muddy wall. I leave the wall cleaning for the first department meeting of the year, which is dominated by complaints. The details are pedantic. The positive comments can be counted on one hand.

The complaints follow me out into the rest of the campus. Complaining is everywhere. Teacher complaints are dominated by two topics: 1) our 1.5% raise is looking more and more anemic given the ballooning administrative staff and the arrival of new state money, and 2) many class sizes are bigger than they have been in years. The phone rings. It is the auto shop telling me I won’t have my car fixed for three days. Attacking the phone, I dial the auto insurance company only to discover they won’t return my calls. The phone rings again with a call from my real estate agent who informs me that yet another bid on another house is a loser. I finally go home depressed and dejected.

Some days as a teacher are disappointing. In this profession, it helps to have extraordinary optimism and cheerfulness so that the disappointing times don’t define the work. While I’m neither optimistic nor cheerful, I’ve found that the difficult days are usually the ones dominated by adults, and true to form, the start of this year is no different.

As soon as the students show up, I’m back to loving the beginning of school. There is the big smile and authentic “How are you?” from Sydney. The joyful reconnections with Megan and Tyler and Sutter and Kevin. How Nikitha and Clair stop by before going off to college just to say goodbye. Three students begging to be my T.A. Four students asking for letters of recommendation. A new World History curriculum focused on climate change that inspires. “I’m really looking forward to your class” from more students than I can count. New first-day activities where students are actually getting to know each other. “Thank you” from countless young people as their first class with me ends and they pile out of the newly decorated room. Oh, how I love the start of school, despite the disappointments. favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont Highfavicon

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TEACHER VOICES: Marni Spitz, #2

Top 10 Ways You Can Tell It’s the 1st Day of School (from a teacher’s perspective)

ms. spitz 2Ed. note: Marni Spitz teaches U.S. History and Reading Lab at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. This is her second post for TEACHER VOICES. Donate to Marni’s classroom!

favicon Today was that most magical of days, when anything is possible, when copies are ready days in advance, when your outfit is picked out the week before (or is that just me?), and when music is on in the front lobby to welcome you! Beyonce! Rihanna! Well, good morning to you, too!

I like to think I’m not the only teacher that has a summer alter-ego.  In July, Ms. Spitz exits, and I become the super-fun, extra-social, late-night-talking “Summer Marn.” I stay out past 9:30 pm on a school night, I can hold a conversation during dinner time, and I’m not afraid to attend a social event on a Friday night. I may even watch TV during lunch. Gasp! It’s hard to say goodbye to Summer Marn, but then the first day of school comes along and makes you so excited to welcome back Ms. Spitz — cardigan-wearing, clip-art-loving, cheesy-quote-finding and all).

I may be a grown woman and eighth-year teacher, but I still get the same butterflies on that first day that I did when I was a student/first-year teacher/attending a Justin Timberlake concert. In fact, I’d like to take a moment to compare the school year to a Justin Timberlake concert. If the school year is a concert, then the first day is the opening song. When Justin (we’re on a first name basis) opens his concert, he chooses a song that gets everyone on their feet, so excited to see the rest of the show, and so in love that they want to buy T-shirts with his name on it for $45. Similarly, as a school, we’ve got to make that first day one that gets our kids on their feet (well, in their seats),  makes them so excited to see the rest of the show (“I love this syllabus! I can’t wait until Unit 3!”), and so in love that they want to buy T-shirts with our name on it (but only for $10). With so much pressure and build-up, the first day is exhausting. It’s exhilarating. It happens. And then just like that, another school year is underway.

For me, that first day/opening song of the concert was today. It’s over. It happened, and I am tired. I am happy.  Some might even say thrilled.  I also realized that Ms. Spitz is completely out of teacher shape. Summer Marn has not completely left the building and I need to do something about that.

Currently, I’m in my classroom, and as I sit here reflecting on the day (by reflecting, I mean staring off onto my beautiful new bulletin boards, sparkling with their new trims and posters that have not weathered a school year), I’m thinking that you know it’s the first day of school when:

1) Your throat hurts.
Turns out, teaching on the first day requires you to use far more of your vocal chords in seven hours than you have all summer. Also-the first day is lot of me talking. Like-a lot. I need to work on that.

2) Your handout speed is a lot slower and your handout counting is off.
Oh wait: There’s ten of you in this row? You didn’t get one? Sorrrryyyyyy.

3) Your whiteboard writing is slanted.
It’s embarrassing.

4) You forget that cute shoes are not teacher shoes.
It’s the first day back, and you want to look your best. So perhaps you decide to wear, say, cute ankle boots to tie your adorable back-to-school outfit together. This was a mistake, one you will be paying for by lunch. Ankle boots are not orthopedically sound nor are they designed for someone who is on their feet all the live-long day.

5) You are wearing an outfit that has no marker stains.
It’s amazing what time away from the Crayola can do for your wardrobe. Oh hi, stainless green dress! It’s so nice to see you again!


6) Students are saying “hi!!” to you super-enthusiastically in the halls.
In fact, some may even be running up to you (yeah, RUNNING!) because they are THAT EXCITED to see you! (“Oh hi honey! I could’ve sworn you hated me last year, but look at you! You loveeee me!”)

7) Your desk is clean. Impeccably, irresistibly clean.
Want a highlighter? Sure–it’s right in my super-organized Highlighter Bin! Need a paper clip? No problem. Please see the drawer labeled “Paper Clips.”

8) The copy machine is available because everyone had their first day lessons printed.
Over-prepared might be the MVP of day-one lessons. Syllabus? Check. Weekly agendas? Check. Surveys? Check. Bathroom passes? Check. Copies for tomorrow? Don’t be ridiculous.

9) There are bagels in the teachers lounge!
Free breakfast?!?! Today must be special!!! And…there are donuts! And a variety of cream cheese flavors! And wait-orange juice!! What?!?!?!

10) Your face hurts from smiling so big because you are so darn excited to be back where you belong. **

** You also need to take a nap. Like, right now. favicon