Sunday, September 12, 2010

A New Beginning

About a month ago, I was ready to welcome twenty-six "new beginnings" to Room 116. Initially, I was disappointed that our new community never hit that mark. A week prior to school starting, our school open house offered an opportunity to meet the families that I would spend the next ten months with, but only about half were able to come. I don't want to sound disappointed by the turnout, but I really wanted to meet everyone, get to know every family. Meeting everyone prior to school starting proved to be an unnecessary goal that I also knew was too aspirational.

Nevertheless, the first day of school I met everyone that mattered, my new students. Well most of them, as some of the names on my list had a new beginning somewhere else. I'll never get to know their personal stories, quirks, or have an understanding of how they learn. This year started out with 24 new beginnings, plus my own.

First year, first grade. My personal new beginning was my successful transition to a career as an educator. It is hard to tell my story of why I am am here, without sounding like a crank or a loser to the listener. In short, I'm glad I'm here. Sometimes it is tremendously hard to change the course of one's life and I found this to be true for my start. One of the messages I have up in my classroom is "Work Hard, Be Great." The secret I keep to myself is that I believe hard work does not guarantee that something of substance, stature, and longevity will always be attained. However, if you work hard and give your best, in my eyes you are great.

My new student partners arrived with the expected nervousness and corollary quiet. We started to build our community right away with exercises and activities that facilitated getting to know each other. The second day offered much of the same, but with more emphasis on practice and procedures. The kids were working hard on their new skills and were truly off to a great start.

I started to think of how wide spectrum of greatness is, which caused me to reflect on what time-frame is included in a new start. It really surprised my thinking when I realized that time-frames both small and large can be included in the definition. Surely big changes, the efforts that require extreme effort, time, and significant resources are recognizable as new starts. Smaller time periods also qualify and with my new students they can occur multiple times in a schoolweek.

When a student chooses to engage in classroom activities, choose to follow hallway procedures, choose to take responsibility for their own learning, it is a new beginning. One that is no less remarkable than the 'big' ones, especially when you are six. Kudos to all of those great efforts big and small.

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