As summer draws to a close, that bittersweet feeling emerges once again. While I love my summers, I also love my job. I look forward to welcoming a new group of kindergarteners as much as I look forward to weekday trail runs in the mountains, family time, leisurely puppy walks and lazy days reading at the pool. I’ve always felt so fortunate to have a job that has such a defined starting and stopping point with a chance to recharge in between.
School has been in the back of my mind all summer long, but now it’s moving to the front. I’m catching up on those professional books that have been piling up. I bought my new notebook and calendar for the year. I have my new reading glasses and brand new Flair pens ready to go. I’ve done home visits to meet the incoming kindergarteners. And I am starting to visualize my classroom space and the four and five year olds who will live there soon. I’m thinking of my goals for the year as a learner and as a teacher. I’m excited for yet another new beginning.
Twenty-eight years ago, when I first started teaching, I spent a lot of time before school started designing bulletin boards, cutting out letters and stapling up borders, making seating arrangements, carefully writing labels with kid’s names, crafting cute behavior management systems (something I cringe at now), and doing other things – stuff – that I felt was necessary. But how I choose to spend my days before I welcome the kids has changed drastically for me. It’s now about my “why” – my reason for being a teacher. It’s about community, identity, freedom and love.
Now I spend the days leading up to the start of the new school year revisiting old favorite professional books like Choice Words and Troublemakers, writing and reflecting about the past year, revisiting my notebooks from the past years, thinking about the aesthetics and the space, imagining what might come up in our learning space and rehearsing how I might handle problems and how I can invite children into our space as a community of learners, explorers and problem solvers. I think a lot about the intentional language I will use because I know how much language matters. I visit some of my favorite online places like Tom Drummond, Fairy Dust Teaching and Opal School and get inspired with new possibilities to try in the upcoming year. I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, writing and anticipating what our year might bring. My focus is on the children and the community we will create together.
When I welcome children into our room the last week of August, they will enter a thoughtful, beautiful, inviting space – that is also a blank canvas, inviting them to make their mark and make it their own. My bulletin boards are empty (except for our linear calendar), the walls are mostly empty (except for a few choice pieces of art done by former classes), the space is organized and inviting with books, plants and invitations to play – but open to change and revision based on what these children might need. I want my new class to enter our room and feel a sense of wonder, delight, curiosity and excitement, as well as a feeling of belonging. I want every child to feel that they can be who they are in our classroom. It’s not my space – it is our space.
I still have a few more weeks to dive deeper into my “why” for this year. To plan out those first important read aloud books and to think deeply about what kind of community we are going to create together. What an exciting time of year for teachers! A fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to create something magical – alongside a group of wonderful tiny humans. How lucky I am.