Questions & Authors: Back to school memories

August 22nd, 2008

Whether it’s savoring some alone time during classroom setup, or enjoying the scent of fresh notebooks and crayons, everyone has their favorite back to school ritual or memory.

We asked a couple of Stenhouse authors to share what little things they savor during this time of the year.

Jennifer Allen, literacy specialist and author of Becoming a Literacy Leader, says that because she doesn’t have a classroom, she now treasures updating her resource room for teachers at the beginning of each year.

“My favorite back to school ritual as a classroom teacher was setting up my classroom. Now as a literacy coach, I find that I still look forward to setting up my room, a room now designed to support adult learning as opposed to student learning.

“I love the solitude of being by myself, unpacking books, and hanging new art that I found over the summer. It is a transitional time of renewed optimism and anticipation before the official start of the upcoming year. It is a time to sift through new resources and highlight new books that teachers might want to offer as read-aloud or new professional books that might appeal to them.

“Setting up my room is my selfish time to be by myself and process new thinking. It is the only time during the year that the room, the learning environment is mine, for the space is designed to be community space and the learning environment belongs to the students and teachers of the school. Setting up my classroom as a teacher, and now the Literacy Room as a coach remains my favorite before school ritual.”

At the beginning of each school year, Pat Johnson always anticipated the arrival of new colleagues. The author of One Child at a Time says that the fresh ideas and enthusiasm new teachers brought to the school energized her as well for the new year ahead:

“The thing that excited me most about the start of a new school year was the new teachers that joined our staff — some fresh out of grad school, some coming from other careers, and some from other districts, but new to our diverse population of students. As the reading teacher I got to talk with all the new faculty, help acquaint them with the book room, and give them support as they made plans for their reading/writing workshops. The eagerness of these new teachers always amazed me. They were sponges, wanting to learn as much as they could about teaching reading and writing. They came in early and stayed late, working hard to make their classrooms inviting and comfortable learning places for kids. Each one brought something fresh and new to add to the school community. Though most were usually scared, apprehensive, and a bit overwhelmed with all that was being asked of them, they still smiled and brought an honest sense of hope with them. You could tell they were so proud to be joining the profession! As I met each one I got energized by their enthusiasm. They inspired me to be the best reading teacher I could be. I didn’t want to let them down.”

Jeff Anderson (Everyday Editing and Mechanically Inclined) considers the beginning of the new year as a chance to start over. Even as a student, hopes for new friends and better lunch selections made the beginning of the school year memorable:

“What I most enjoyed about each new school year was the chance to start over—a clean slate, a new chance, brimming with possibilities. Plus, my mom had a need to move to progressively better houses and neighborhoods, which meant my new years started totally new. New schools, new teachers, new students. I loved it. This school wouldn’t have the mean Rachel or Belinda who made fun of the way I talked, and they may not have that horrible SRA program I hated, and maybe their lunches would be better. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it made me nervous too, but the hope, the hope always won out. I would fantasize about the new friends I’d make, how this year people would want to sit with me at lunch, and this year the teachers would think I was smart. Years later as a new teacher and over all the years of my teaching career, that remained my favorite part of the beginning of school. The fresh start, full of hope for all the things my students will accomplish. How this year I will do classroom management better or this year I will try out this new kind of strategy. Something new, something different. That’s the joy of the beginning of school: starting over.”

So, what is your favorite thing about starting school?

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