I am head-over-heels in love with teaching this group of first graders!
I loved teaching kindergarten. My group challenged me in ways I never could have predicted, and I am a much better teacher because I taught that group last year. Let me tell you something though, it changed my perspective on what early childhood education was. My first day as a kindergarten teacher was an absolute nightmare. Within the first five minutes of school, I had the principal and guidance counselor in my room helping me deal with an issue. All day long, I felt completely under-qualified for my position, because, for the life of me, I could not get my kiddos to follow my directions. To top it all off, I managed to put two of my lovelies on the wrong buses to get home. It was awful, and I left that day sure I was going to win the award Worst Kindergarten Teacher In The History Of Ever. (It got better fairly quickly, but, holy cow, that first day was one for the books.)
I went into yesterday (our first day of school) expecting more or less the same. I knew I'd be better than last year simply because of last year's experience, but I was still a little hesitant that it was going to be yet another train wreck. Within the first fifteen minutes of the day, I knew this year is going to be different. Here's how it went:
I got to school at 6:30 in order to make sure I was ready to go. My plans were set, my materials were gathered, and I was at my door ready to greet my 19 lovely first graders as they filtered in. I quickly got to work dealing with the various supplies and notes the kiddos were bringing me and got the students all busy coloring the covers for their take home folders. Because I was so busy, I didn't notice it at first. When I got on top of all the "stuff," I finally noticed how not chaotic my classroom was. I turned from my desk area and noticed this:
Every single one of my kiddos was sitting at their spots doing their work and quietly talking to their neighbors.
My first thought was, "Huh. I didn't know kids could do that." I found myself standing there with this stupid-wide grin on my face, and all of my fears melted away. When my associate walked into my room, I looked at her and said, "This. This right here. This never happened last year." The rest of the day followed suit. We were able to launch Daily 5 right away. During our first practice run, we were able to maintain our stamina for four minutes! (Four minutes! On the first day of first grade!) We managed to make it to recess, specials, and lunch on time and in a respectful manner, and by the end of the day, our room was full of smiles and budding friendships.
I'm not going to lie. I was a little afraid yesterday was a fluke. This morning, I sat at my desk rechecking plans and praying I had good content and activities to make the day worthwhile. As my students started coming into the room and getting busy, I realized we were going to start our day in a very similar manner as the day before. Before I knew it, it was lunchtime and, once again, we had had a successful morning (including maintaining Read to Self stamina for 8 minutes!). Our afternoon went just as well, and, again, the kiddos left with smiles on their faces!
I haven't smiled this much in a long, long time. Last year was just hard. We had so many successes, but we also had many setbacks. Often, I found myself caught up in the setbacks, and I lost sight of the daily joys taking place in my classroom. When I left school at the end of the day last year, I felt defeated and tired. I know I'm going to have days like that this year too. That's the nature of teaching. I needed these two days though. I needed to remember the goodness children bring to the world and the wonder with which they view it. I needed to be able to smile at the music coming from the music room because my mind wasn't so bogged down with worry to miss it. I needed the peace I felt in knowing that my kiddos were safe and learning without distraction. I needed to be able to build relationships with my students from the very beginning and to remember those relationships are important.
No one can say for sure where this year is going to take us, but I'm ready for it! I'm so, very grateful for the blissful first two days of school, and, even it's hard, I'm excited for this year!