Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The First of The Lasts

September 9th, 2015 was the first of many "lasts" for me this year. I have gone through many, many first days of school over the years, so was this day going to be any different from all the others? In my mind this was very different, as this would be my very last time welcoming a new class of students and preparing for a new school year. I wondered just how many students had I greeted every fall for the past 42 years? How many ways had I prepared for that first day of school? This was the first of my "lasts" that will continue throughout this year and end in June.

I vividly remember stepping anxiously into my first classroom, all those years ago at St. Mark’s Primary school in Barrhead, Scotland.

This was where I had gone to primary school and I loved this small school and all its friendly teachers. I was about to become the first former student to return as a teacher. I was so nervous about my new position and becoming a member of the faculty with some of the very same teachers I had when I was a student there. I really wanted these kids experiences to be productive, happy and fun like mine had been. Suddenly all those college courses I had taken and all the student teaching I had done seemed so far away and irrelevant as I looked into the 37 pairs of eyes staring at me from the many rows of shiny desks. My primary two class was anxiously sitting awaiting my direction. 
I stood quietly, wondering how I was going to occupy them for that one day and couldn't even begin to think about the rest of the school year or imagine what tomorrow would look like. I had just been told that morning that I would be teaching a primary two class so there had  been no time to ponder, think or plan. I remember worrying about how I was going to learn all the students' names and how could I really ever get to know them with so many in the class.  A daunting task to be sure, having this great responsibility of educating these young minds.

So what did I do? I chose to ignore the piles of different textbooks on the shelves, at least
for now and I began by moving all the desks to the sides of the room. I had everyone sit in a circle on the floor and we began talking and getting to know each other. I told them stories about my life and then they shared stories about themselves. I read them a story from a class library book, had them draw pictures about the story and somehow it was all ok. We explored the classroom, found some neat supplies, blocks and books and we got through that first day. My first year of teaching had begun!

What did I do this year to begin this last, first day? Well, actually it wasn’t so different from the first time all those years ago. I wanted to make these kids 6th grade be the best experience ever and students really are no different today. We moved our chairs into a circle and began talking and getting to know each other. I told them stories about my life and they shared stories about themselves. I showed them a few Ted Talks and we talked some more and wrote. And so my last year had begun - one last time!


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  2. Thank you for posting this and sharing that story. You clearly had all the right instincts from the beginning! 42 years - wow. That's a lot of kids whose lives you have affected. Looking forward to reading more stories about the kids that have not changed and the world that has! Thanks Shirley.

  3. You never forget your first class, do you? You probably could name all 37 if you saw the class photo. But-- 37 students all at once? And you put them in a circle! That shows courage and that you really, really know kids. I love this story and can't wait to read more as the year goes on.