August is upon us and I cannot help but giddily count down the days until the very first day of school. Call it the curse of the teachers: we are still on vacation but our minds are drifting back to school weeks before we actually have to be there. I cannot wait to see what this year will hold. I cannot wait to figure out what we will do the first day of school. I cannot wait to see what the students will think of me.
As much as I worry about that very first day of school and what we should do, I have started to realize that although the first day is important – first impressions always are – it is really what comes after that very first day that sets the tone for the rest of the year.
Students expect an exciting first day. They, themselves, are often nervous and filled with energy, ready to see their friends, ready to hear what the year will hold, ready to meet their teacher. That energy bubbles into a classroom and sustains it for the day. That energy is contagious. We do fun things, we set the tone, we explain and explore, and I always end with a challenge. At the end of the day, I am exhausted and exhilarated, ready for an amazing year. And I hope my students go home and tell their parents that 5th grade will be an incredible year.
Yet for me it is the next day that the true tone is set for the year and the days after that. When the energy is diminished, students are starting to realize that summer is over and school is back. Some have realized that they are more nervous than they thought and some may have even realized that their teacher is not what they thought they would be. That is when we start to make our true impression. When we no longer have time to do the fun beginning of the year activities, when we start to feel the pressure of everything we have to get done, when students start to show their true personalities, that is when the tone is set for the year. That is when the students start to see who we really are and how we really will be as a teacher.
Anyone can fool kids for a day. But no one can fool kids for a whole year. So I ask you not what you are doing on the very first day but instead, what are you doing the rest of the week? The rest of the month? The rest of the year to set the tone? That is where we should be focusing our efforts.
I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.