I recently read an excellent blog post from Cathy Mere in which she said, “In a teaching world filled with data, I think the best thing about the first days of school is getting to know kids not by numbers, but by living beside them.” How true and wise these words are. They have echoed in my mind since I read the post. Living beside our students, establishing trust and relationships and getting to know who they really are as people is the foundation of a good year.
The first three days in my new kindergarten class have been full of getting to know my students and beginning to establish a strong community for us to live and learn in all year. For many of my kids, this is their first experience of school. It’s so important for me to make our learning community one where we know each other well, and care about each other. One of the routines I established on day one was an oral storytelling time. It quickly became my favorite time of the day. It’s all about getting to know each other and sharing ourselves in this new community together.
I started our first storytelling time by reading No, David! and sharing the author’s notes by David Shannon on why he wrote that book. Then I said, “you know – everyone has stories to tell, just like David Shannon did. I have stories and I’ll bet you have stories too!” Then I shared a story about my dog Cayo and how she barks at the mailman every day. The kids were spellbound, listening to me weave a story out of an everyday occurrence. I then asked if any of them had a story to tell. All hands went up. These kindergarteners, many of them English language learners, on the first day of school, sat still and were engaged for over 20 minutes while story after story was told by their classmates. It was magical. I realized then that this was a necessary part of every day. We were getting to know each other by sharing what was important to us and by sharing the stories of our lives. What a great way to connect with each other, realize similarities and begin to build a strong community.
As my year continues, I plan to keep our storytelling time as an important part of our day. While I will eventually get to know my kids by numbers, I want to keep living beside them every day, listening to the stories they tell and getting to know them as people.