being a teacher, new year

At the End of the First Week

There is nothing like the first week of school tired, it seems.  Well, perhaps it’s only contender is the first week with a new baby tired.  We drag ourselves home, hoping that dinner has somehow magically arrived, that our house is not a mess, that our own kids are doing well because honestly, all we can think of is when we will get to go to bed.

While I love the first week of school, I always seem to forget how exhausting it is.  How the excitement quickly morphs into an overwhelming sense of “there is so much to do…” How the only kids we can compare these new kids to are the ones we just had, and those kids had it all figured out…

So as I drove home yesterday, overwhelmed by this long list of what I needed to do this weekend in order to simply teach my 90 minutes on Monday, feeling like maybe I was not that great of a teacher after all, I remembered a few truths shared by others, experienced by me, every single year…

They don’t know us yet.

They don’t know our routines even if we have spent all week teaching them.

They don’t know our expectations and so they are trying to figure that out and sometimes we are not as crystal clear as we think we are.

They are just as overwhelmed at times as we are.  Starting school is a whole lot of new and for some, it is a whole lot of negative.  We might not see that yet, but that doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t there.

It’s okay to slow down.  Your best-laid plans were based on fictitious children and now that the real children are here, our job is to make our plans fit the kids, not the other way around.

You are not a bad teacher if you haven’t reached every kid yet.  If you are still forgetting names even though you just knew them.  If you thought the lesson would be amazing when you planned it and it turned out to be mediocre instead.  You are not a bad teacher even if you feel like one.

So last night, as my kids played and got their boundless energy out (where do they get it from?), I did a simple thing; sent notes of appreciation home.  As I looked at my class lists, I remembered once again all of the great moments we did have in class, all of the kind behaviors, the kids who tried, the kids who smiled, the kids who didn’t think my crazy ideas were totally stupid.

The times when it did click.  When it did work, rather than the times where I had to repeat, reteach, restate.

As I sent each note home, the excitement that had been hidden by exhaustion came back; the promise of an amazing year, the hopes that I have so carefully stoked all summer.  These kids are awesome, we are the lucky ones who get to teach them.

Perhaps, like me,  you need to be reminded as well?

I cannot wait for Monday.


7 thoughts on “At the End of the First Week”

  1. Wow! You got it exactly right—all of it. You had me crying. I work during the summer before school starts trying to get ahead, but sometime during that first week it slips away and I’m behind again trying to catch up. Just exhausted. Love my kids, though.

  2. Great reminder, Pernille! Beginning the school year is exciting and daunting all at the same time! I love your phrase: “Starting school is a whole lot of NEW…” That’s exactly what I need to remember – doing thing for 40 years I sometime forget that! And that whole lot of new has to be approached slowly and mindfully! Thank you!

  3. Thank you! You always seem to know what I need to hear.

    This is my 6th year of teaching. I teach 6th grade reading and started out by reading the Book Whisperer and based my teaching off what I learned from Donalyn and loved it. This year, after reading Passionate Readers, following your blog and watching your webinar, I have added many of your ideas into my teaching. This 1st week, I switched things up and followed a lot of what I have learned from you and your book. It has definitely made a difference. The book shopping, discussions about what we like and why reading sucks, and our book talks and reading wish lists have really helped my students find books they enjoy, much sooner.

    Each day I enthusiastically shared stories about the wonderful experience I had at the Scholastic Reading Convention, where I learned so much from so many amazing people. I have my Scholastic name badge hanging on my board in the front of the room for my students to see. They are now familiar with the names of Pernille Ripp and Donalyn Miller and know that is who shared with me, how important it is to let them read books of choice. This week I shared the stories of Dav Pilkey and Malcolm Mitchell and read The Magician’s Hat, which they LOVED.

    Yes, I am exhausted each day when I get home, but it has also been the most rewarding year for me so far. I see the joy in my students faces as they find books they want to read. I hear them talking about their book choices. Our 10 min read has students quietly engaged and reading their books. This usually takes much longer to achieve. I have even had a few already ask if we could please read longer.

    Again, I just wanted to say…THANK YOU!

  4. Observing the amount of work you put in and watching the video of your work, I wonder you are not exhausted! I’m sure you get ample feedback and appreciation of your efforts, but I will just add mine; if only my education had included a teacher like you!

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