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Week 1: It was a Blur (8/14-8/18)

August 19, 2017


Today is Saturday. It's 5:41 in the afternoon.  This morning I went to my son's first football game of the season.  They lost.  Afterwards, he was dripping sweat and utterly exhausted.  In his face, I saw the reflection of my own  exhaustion from the first week of school.  For anyone who teaches school, you know the tired I am referencing.  As it has been said, there is no tired like first-week-of- school-teacher-tired, and still, I find myself texting a friend this morning with ideas for a story we are reading  this week, and I spent the last hour trying to find a short video I felt properly introduced the idea of the "coming of age," theme for the year.  I lost.  No video.


I have taught in this district for fourteen years, ten years as a teacher and four as a literacy coach.  You would think I would have this figured out by now, but I don't.  I still really don't.  I confess this to you openly, as I am fully aware that the greatest teachers are really just the best and most willing learners in the room.  Already, I am learning so much from my students.


This week, I met 153 freshmen in my six periods of English I. I would be lying if I said I knew all of their names.  I am trying, but parents, let me be honest, the versions of Kayleigh, Kayla, and Katelyn are throwing me for a loop.  I am not mad at you for naming your children these names.  I am only providing a disclaimer that it will take me some time.  I will get there. I promise. 


Katelyn, Kaley, Layla, and Katie, I apologize in advance if I accidentally call you the wrong name this week, next month, or even in May.  


I would venture to say I have taught more than a thousand students in my career.  I sometimes forget their names, but I never forget their faces, which brings me to my next point. The faces, I have finally concluded, are the thing I love most about teaching.  Parents, I wish you could have been there this week when we read, "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer" by Walt Whitman.  They really "got it." Their faces told me so.  Through the message of the poem, I urged them to be in charge of their own learning, to not wait on me, to go above and beyond what is required. They were listening, really listening.  Their faces and their responses told me so.  I hope they keep listening because I know, from experience, it will change their lives. 


Beyond the poem, here is a recap of the week.  Monday we went through the dreaded handbook formalities, Tuesday we reviewed the syllabus, Wednesday we took a diagnostic test, Thursday we did station rotations, and Friday we visited the media center to log on to computers and check out books.  My favorite part of the week was Thursday when we did the station rotations.  One of the stations was Meet the Teacher, where I had the pleasure of sitting down with four or five students for ten minutes on a rotation basis.  I asked them about how they were adjusting to high school and what books they liked to read and what clubs they were involved in or wanted to get involved in this year.  This time was short, but I was thankful for the opportunity to see each of them, to let them know I saw them not only students, but also people.  I wanted them to see I was a person too.  We cannot go through the rest of the year as mere inanimate fixtures dwelling in a common location.  


Parents, I want you to know I love your children already, so very much.  I love their faces, their thoughts, their dreams, and yes, even their struggles.  I also want you to know I am committed to be the teacher to your students I would want my own sons to have.  Students, I want you to know I am committed to your success as learners and as people.  I told each of you the first day, I would prove this to you not in a speech on the first day, but rather in the actions of the next 180 days.  I still have 175 more days to go, but I hope you are already seeing this as truth.  I also want you to know I am proud of you.  You have successfully navigated the first week of your freshman year, and you did not die.  You made it to classes and lunch and home safely again.  You brought pencils and kept your phones tucked out of sight. You stayed awake, at least for my class, and you did so with smiles and kind faces that made me realize how lucky I am to have arrived at such a place, for such an hour, with each of you. Thank you for a wonderful week.  I am looking forward to the next 35 weeks.  


Keep pressing on,

Mrs. Bell

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