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Teacher Talk: The First Day

August 17, 2019

 

You've labeled the cubbies. You've printed your lists. You've prepared your binders and added those vibrant drops of food coloring to the water pouring work. The mats are lined up and the pencils are sharpened. 

 

There is nothing more to do.

 

There will always be more to do. 

 

We put so much pressure on ourselves, as teachers and caregivers, as "scientists, servants and saints" to make sure all the checklists are complete before the children arrive, to attend to all the things we can attend to before, so that when the children do arrive, we need only to attend to them. 

 

The checklists are a lie. 

 

There will always be more to do. 

 

Your work is not to model perfection, but resilience. Something will go wrong on the first day of school. Thank goodness, something will go wrong on the first day of school. From the very first moments, you are demonstrating to children that, when things go wrong, as they do, we are people who can calmly, with grace and ease, fix them. Day one is about the "just in case." If you're worried about your name tags, make sure you have blank ones nearby just in case. If your music player sometimes messes up, have a great book by "just in case." If a child needs more of your eye contact or your hand to hold or a space near to your shoulder, have a cue with your Assistant to take the lead "just in case." You cannot insist on everything going as planned, but you can think through how you'll stay calm, with grace and ease, as you respond to what does not.

 

Get a good night's sleep. Just in case you need some more energy.

 

Make your lunch the night before. Just in case the morning runs a little wonky. 

 

Make your coffee at home. Just in case the coffee shop is busier than usual that day.

 

Plan on time at the end of the day with your colleagues, without an agenda. Just in case you need some adult contact and time to breathe out. 

 

Order dinner in. Just in case you need a little more time for yourself at the end of that first day. 

 

There's nothing more to do, even when there's always more to do. Do enough to welcome the children warmly and with love. Do enough to make sure the environment will delight them. Do enough to know that you have done what you could have known to do, and know that as you know more, you'll do more. Do what you need for Day One, but know that there will always be more to do. We find the motivation to keep doing it, not by getting it perfect every day, but by giving ourselves (and the children) the forgiveness that persistence requires. 

 

Don't expect perfection, but make sure you've got extra towels in the cabinet. Just in case.

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