As I sit here preparing for two full professional days, Open House and a 4 day week with kiddos, I can't BELIEVE how quickly this summer has gone! I'm sure that we all think that every year - I'm never ready for summer to be over. But on the other hand, I am always excited and ready to meet my new students, get big hugs from my old students and spend time with my coworkers who, as the years pass, are more like family than anything else.
Every year I have a picture in my mind of what I want my room to look like, how I want the first day (or days in my case - K phases in the first week) to be, what I want to say ... but every year nothing goes quite the way I've planned it. And over the years, I've learned that that's okay! You may have noticed throughout my blog posts so far, but if you haven't, I'm a major planner, pretty organized and I'm still learning to expect the unexpected! This is why before every year starts, I try to remind myself of these 5 things (in addition to much more!)
1. Open House - Make it simple!
I have reworked the way I do Open House several times. My Open House, like many, is tacked on to the end of a full professional day. As important as it is, don't stress! Have a few stations out to keep families occupied, but also allow yourself to be available for the many questions that will be coming your way. The more work you put on yourself before your first full day with kiddos, the more overwhelmed you'll feel at the end of that first week! Enjoy meeting your new students and their families and don't worry if you don't have 75 activities out for everyone to see. Be creative, keep everyone engaged and that will be enough! The parents and students are more excited about meeting YOU than your centers and stations! :)
2. Let your students know you're nervous, too!
I always thought twice before making a vulnerable comment such as admitting I was nervous, too, but quickly realized that it helped to form the bond with my students! After all, Julie Dannenburg made a whole book out of it with First Day Jitters! Every time I tell my students that I'm nervous for the first day of school they can't believe it - it's a real conversation starter. Usually I get the big eyes and side stares - they're so surprised it gets them to forget that they're nervous and participate in a class conversation!
3. You might not get through your plans...
And that's okay!! My first couple of years, I panicked when I realized I was 3/4 of the way through the day, but only about 1/3 of the way through my plans! At the end of the day, I'd think back and realize that we had so much fun, it didn't even matter! Oftentimes now, I get excited if we go in a different direction than the original plans because that means students are contributing and participating. For the first week, it's good to have a guideline, but if you don't get through every beautiful craft or meticulously planned activity, you'll live. And let's be honest, your kiddos won't know the difference those activities get pushed back a day or so as long as they're enjoying themselves.
4. Make your students feel at home
This should actually probably be #1 because it needs to be at the forefront of your mind all week! Especially for you kindergarten teachers - this may be one of the first times your students have ever been away from home for the whole day! Even if they are accustomed to daycare or babysitters, school is so much different! If a student is feeling lonely or sad, encourage them and pair them up with a more outgoing student. If they miss their family more than most, contact their parents and ask for them to send in a photo for the moments they need it. Do everything you can to make your students feel comfortable with you, their classmates and to love school! For those of us in primary, we set the foundation for how a child feels about school. It is our job to do all that we can to show them how to love it as much as we do!
5. For a minute, forget the forms...
I know we're all caught up with assessments, screeners, SLOs, back to school forms and all the other paperwork that goes up to our ears by day 4 of school. It's hard to ignore, but DO IT! Even if just for a little while. Forget needing to know how many letters that child knows within the first hour of school or finding out whether he meets the beginning of the year benchmark. Instead, sit down with your kiddos - no papers, no agendas - and play with them, read with them, talk to them and listen to them! As educators, at the core of us we know that we'll know more about our students when we spend time with them than if we drill them with assessments. We just have to find the balance and remember what's important Let's keep it our priority while swimming through our deadlines! It's certainly a goal for me!
I know that many of you have already started your year - I love looking at how classrooms are turning out and the back to school activities happening. If you're feeling overwhelmed during this whirlwind of a time, I hope these reminders help you! I hope they help me next week!