Grace should be my middle name.

Location: United States

Friday, August 13, 2004

The First Day

The first day of school from a teacher's perspective was so different than it was back when I was in sixth grade. I remember my first day of sixth grade. It was also my first day of private school. For five years I attended your average public elementary school. I had friends. I rode the bus. I sang in the choir, played the hand bells and was in art club. I even did a stint as a "square dancer" which was the highest notch on the elementary school dancing hierarchy, with "folk dancers" following behind.

A new school, a private school and my first day in what we call "Middle School". It was also my first day in uniforms. We had PE uniforms too, that you had to change into in a teacher's classroom. Boys and girls were segregated for PE, which seemed strange at first, but I actually ended up liking.

The girls were nice and I made friends. But they didn't associate much with the boys. I wasn't a big dater back when I was 10 years old or anything, but this struck me as bizarre. Every birthday party in 5th grade was of the boy-girl nature with the likes of Roger Rabbit, the Cabbage Patch, and of course, everyone's favorite Running Man. There might even be a slow dance to Timmy T, with more than enough room for the Holy Spirit, Father and Son. Back in fifth grade, they also played spin the bottle, though I was always one of the outsiders on that affair. I distinctly remember totally relating to DJ's boy-girl birthday party on Full House. Come on guys, 10 years old, OK?

So sixth grade brought things other changes other than uniforms and a regression in male/female relationships. It also brought changing classes. I don't remember that as being much of a big deal. But I do remember that keeping track of all the teacher's books, folders, homework and one locker combination to be a challenge. Sixth grade meant organizing.

When I got the the first day of school as a first year teacher in a sixth grade art classroom, no, I really wasn't nervous. I had it all planned out. I knew what I was doing. I finished student teaching with minimal amounts of tears and flying colors. 6 classes of sixth graders. Piece of cake.

What my secret weapon was, was knowing that they were more scared than I was on my first day of teacher pre-planning. They were terrified. They were small. One boy was afraid to TALK.

I heard talk of the first day of school back in teacher preparation classes. "You'll go straight home and go to bed and not wake up until the next morning!" "You'll never be so tired as you are your first year!" "The first year, man are you in for it!"

I don't make light of the situation, or exaggerate my classroom management abilities.

I'm too nice. I give in. When I asked that they bring in their "Welcome Letters" signed by their parents TOMORROW "or else it's a ZERO", I knew that I wouldn't be giving out any zeros the next day. I laugh at the bad kids inside. I think about which boys I would fall in love with, if I were in sixth grade. When a boy farted in my class, I wasn't sure what I should do. I say things like "cool". And "awesome". And "dude".

I went into this school taking the don't-smile-before-Christmas attitude. I wanted the kids to behave. I don't want chaos to erupt in 4 weeks. I want them to make great art. But on the first day, when I heard a student tell his friend that "Middle school is really hard because the teacher's are so STRICT!" and I was stupid enough to as, "Like ME?!", he said, "NO, you're nice!"

Yeah, I suppose that's usually a compliment. But I was so excited at the fact that I might be STRICT, it was crushing to be called NICE. I wasn't going for NICE. Maybe it's a good thing I was shooting for strict because if I had shot any lower, I would have hit SOFT or EASY or something much worse.

By the third day of school, I was kicking some ass and taking names. I haven't given out a referral. Yet. And I haven't given out any zeros. But tomorrow's the day. Tomorrow will mark one week down with many more to go!


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