New School Year’s Day

backgroundAugust 1: New School Year’s Day. Educator’s calendars don’t start on 01/01/15, but 08/01/15.

When I was teaching, I celebrated by thumbing through my lesson plan binder from the previous year. Going through the binder was also my way of moving from “Vacation Mode” to “Teacher Mode.” It’s a hard transition but it must happen.

Going through the binder, each page was a weekly lesson plan, Monday through Friday, with boxes filled with circle time activities, small group lessons, outdoor activities, and free play materials. The scribbled pages prompt memories; not all of the time, but sometimes snapshots of those particular days play in my head. I’ll think to myself;

(I remember that activity. I’m doing that one this year.)

(That one was fun. And really messy.)

Then there are the terrible ones.

(That one went horribly. Never again.)

(Oh, yeh, that activity. I forgot that happen. Yeh, I’m just going to forget I did that game.)

Lesson plans are like historical documents for teachers. Unintentional autobiographies. Wish I had kept mine. I gave them to new teachers when I went into management. Another symbolic gesture; passing the torch.

When I started writing the my lesson plan for the first week of the school year, there’s only a couple of things to plan for: build relationships with kids, don’t lose any of the new kids, and make sure you make a good first impression with the parents. The first week is about relationship building. Showing the kiddos that you’re safe, fun, and the classroom is space for excitement and learning.

To encourage repeat visits, there are two things I make sure I do on the first day of preschool: first day picture and first day certificate.

First Day Picture

This one isn’t too hard. You just have to make sure you match the right name with the right kid and give to the right parent. I messed up a few times. All of them were awkward moments.

The first day picture, however, brightens the parent’s day (which was probably spent worrying about how their child was doing in school). The photo is something I’ve seen most parents frame or keep in a photo album. The photo will become one of their own historical documents of their child.

And I’m more than sure the kiddos will see that photo when they bring their first date home to meet the parents.

Now, just be aware that the first day picture won’t always be the greatest photo. Some children are crying most of the first day. Some first day photos are of stone-faced children who recently stopped crying or just ran out of tears. This is why I’ll give the first day photo at the end of the first week. This way, I have at least four days to get a smiling photo or a snapshot of the child playing a game or outdoor activity.

First Day Certificate of Completion

The first day of preschool is a major event in a child’s life, as well as the families. Where the picture is mostly for the family, the certificate is for the child.

I’ve made my own certificates in the past. It’ll have bright colors and shapes. There are words but the children can’t read it. The main word they can see is their own name, which I write using the widest, darkest Sharpie I can get my hands on.

When I give the child the certificate, there are mixed emotions of course. If they’ve been crying all day, they may not accept it at first, but they’ll grab it if it means they get to leave the building sooner. Most children, however, gladly take the paper. “This is mine!” is the expression I read on their face. Parents come the next day and share that the certificate is proudly posted on the child’s bedroom wall or on the fridge.

There are things that teachers all do on the first day of preschool and these are mine. I feel that these gestures warmly welcome children and families into Teacher Gilbert’s classroom.

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