In Maine we begin school a little later than many of my teacher friends across the country. So for most of the month of August I’ve been reading posts on social media from teachers who are setting up their classrooms and preparing for the start of a new school year. They are filled with excitement and energy mixed with a twinge of anxiety about being ready. (and sometimes a little grief with saying goodbye to summer).
I’ve had many people in the last week or two ask me, “So, are you ready for school to start?” and I know many of my teacher friends have been asked the same question. My go-to response is almost always, “Ready or not, here it comes.”
So how do we know if we are ready? What defines readiness? For some it comes with the satisfaction of setting up a classroom that is welcoming and engaging. We love to see photos of classroom designs and layouts to get ideas and try new things. Teachers are some of the most creative people I know, and their talent for interior decorating of simple rectangular space can be inspiring. But this can be a double edged sword in which teachers may be doubting if their own classrooms are Pinterest-worthy and credit cards get maxed out buying books, supplies, and furniture that will never be reimbursed.
This past week was in several of my four schools and many teachers were working with loving care and passionate intensity in their rooms. Unless you are a teacher (or are the parent or spouse of one) you cannot fully appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into getting classrooms ready for the start of a school year.
I fondly recalled that first day of school when my students would see the fruits of my labor… “Mrs. B., you’ve outdone yourself with the bulletin board design-I feel so welcome! Your desk arrangements are so thoughtful- we will definitely be able to interact more cooperatively this year. Thank you for supplying us with so many markers, post its, and pencils- and storing them so creatively-we will definitely make sure they are put back neatly at the end of each day. The lamination of every name tag, anchor chart, and posted schedule was a nice touch, hope it didn’t take you too long.”
Haaaa! Dream on. In reality they rushed in, unpacked their backpacks, reconnected with friends, an asked if it was time for lunch. Now, I don’t want to imply that any of those tasks was a waste of time and effort. These touches are for us more than they are for the kids, and they are meaningful because we live and work in those spaces every single day, too. We need that feng shui for our environment, to feel some sense of harmony and satisfaction. So yes, in one sense, this is readiness. Readiness for ourselves to feel prepared to work in an environment that sustains us. But how do we know if we are ready for the work?
I believe we are ready when…
- You genuinely love kids and want to spend your days with them
- You care enough about their well-being to be a little anxious about their success
- You have some butterflies of excitement and anticipation for the new year
- You expect a growth mindset from your students as well as yourself- (remember FAIL-First Attempt In Learning)
- You believe whoever does the work, does the learning.
- You’ve taken time to fill your own bucket over the summer
- You appreciate your preparation efforts and aren’t focusing on what you didn’t do or should’ve done.
YOU are what really matters to those students. Take care of yourself as much as you take care of your classroom space. Primp your classroom…pamper yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others-readiness is a state of mind more than a state of completion. Seek to find some balance between what you put into the teaching and what you put into the teacher.
The classroom is your container. What you and your students bring to it day by day, drop by drop, will be what fills it. Don’t worry if it seems a little empty right now. It is a work-in-progress!
Ready or not, here it comes…You’re ready.
What’s On My Book Radar?
ONE AMAZING ELEPHANT by Linda Oatman High
Lily Pruitt lives with her father in West Virginia. Her mother lives with her grandparents as part of a traveling circus show. Lily loves her grandparents but is devastated by her mother’s abandonment. When her grandfather Giant Bill passes away unexpectedly, Lily flies to Florida alone for the funeral. There in mourning are her grandmother, her mother (and sleazy boyfriend), as well as Giant Bill’s best friend- Queenie Grace. Queenie and Bill had a circus act together, but also a deep and loving relationship. Lilly is afraid of Queenie, but as events unfold she finds herself protecting and even loving this gentle beast. Told from alternating points of view from Lily and Queenie Grace, we are presented with a story of genuine empathy and compassion. A bit of Because of Winn Dixie meets The One and Only Ivan with an important Author’s Note about elephants in captivity.