The First Day

Today was the first day of school. For me, it was my first day of school since 2000 that I was not beginning the school year in my own classroom with a new group of students. (I’ve been a full-time instructional coach since last November when I returned from maternity leave.)

Instead, today, I had the privilege of getting to be a part of nine classroom’s first days. While at first I felt as if I were intruding on the “magic” of the first day, I soon fell in love with my new stance as an observer, as another set of hands and pair of eyes for my colleagues, and as someone who knows many of the faces that were new to their teachers.

Here are a few of the wonderful “firsts” I saw and heard today:

~Sixty kindergarten families, students and their parents, waiting for their classroom orientations in our school’s lobby. So many proud parents holding their children’s hands as they embark on a magical year of learning and discovery.

~Teachers prompting students to write using all they know to write their very first piece of writing of the year and students quickly and quietly moving their pencils across the lines on their papers.

~Teachers reading favorite picture books to launch the day, launch Math Workshop, launch Reading and Writing Workshops and to kick-off the first conversations of the year. Books included: Chrysanthemum, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, One Green Apple, and The Math Curse.

~Third graders squealing and giggling as their teacher read Lulu and the Brontosaurus and she read the phrase “she was a pain in the b-u-t-t”. Followed a few moments later by students joining in as the teacher sang Lulu’s song about finding a brontosaurus for a pet.

~Fifth graders sharing that a few problems they tried to solve were a little difficult since they just came from vacation and couldn’t remember everything from fourth grade so quickly;)

~Fourth graders turning and sharing with a neighbor a “Math Curse” problem from their summer with glowing faces as they excitedly tried to create creative and tricky stories.

~So many students and teachers making a fresh start, hope in their eyes and voices as they reflected on the past and started sharing goals and dreams for their new year together.

Here are a few hopes I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of–could we have any greater hopes for our students?!




5-Minute Friday: LOOK

It’s Friday again, and that means another 5-Minute Friday challenge from Lisa-Jo Baker. If you want to join in or read other people’s posts, check out her page here: Here’s my take on this week’s word and something I’ve been thinking about since a meeting I had earlier this week…


In any classroom, good teachers know that the most important thing is seeing your students. Knowing them. Understanding who they are. We can’t be good teachers if we don’t really listen to and look at the children who walk into our classrooms each morning.

And with instruction, particularly in the workshop model where one-on-one conferring is essential, knowing your students is a must. Lucy Calkins, author of many books including The Art of Teaching Writing, described this conferring as having 3 parts: Research, Decide, Teach. Inherent in the research part of a conference is looking at and really understanding what each child is working on as a writer (or reader, or mathematician, or scientist). We might ask questions, read some of their writing, listen to them explain their work or read alongside them. The goal is to really know what they’re thinking, what they’re doing well, and what they’re trying to do. And then compliment them on something they are doing well. Everyone likes to feel good about their work before hearing a suggestion, don’t we?

Recently, I’ve heard my own student voice in my head during a few interactions I’ve had as a new mom. Times when I was struggling to breastfeed my daughter or figure out sleep routines and sought advice, I’ve heard a part of me yelling, “Wait! You’re not listening! You don’t know me! You don’t know what I’ve been trying.” And then I’ve been left feeling ignored, given rote information that doesn’t really apply to me or my situation, and, frankly, pissed off.

We adults have a lot of opinions, and “experts” are often expected to just give their opinions, perhaps without listening. However, here’s a lesson from the classroom for the greater world—do a little research, really look and see and understand, before you try to teach others. It makes a difference.