The first five years of teaching I taught third through fifth grade students with learning disabilities in a self-contained setting. When I transferred to a new school, I was excited to learn I would be teaching first through third grade students with learning disabilities in a self-contained setting because I felt like I would be able to intervene with younger students before they got to the point that my old students had when they came to me. So...I planned for my first day with these young students and felt pretty confident. My classroom looked great. I had activities prepared and a smile on my face as I was greeted the kids with hugs and smiles. After having my ENTIRE day's plans DONE by 10:30...I was was scrambling for something to do! I had no idea they would finish an art activity in 10 minutes because fifth graders would take forever to do similar things. Their attention spans were so short! I was totally out of my element. I managed to make it another hour until lunch with readalouds, and then I marched out to my car and had a good cry. What had I gotten myself into?!? I thought I knew what to do. The rest of that day was a blur, but I went home and spent hours on the phone calling all of the primary teachers at my previous school asking what they had done that day. I went to bed with a better game plan for the next day, and well...I fell in love with teaching primary! The lessons here are: over plan, ask for help and try, try, try again.
My first day of teaching the principal entrusted 36 first graders to me. He didn't give me thirty-six desks or tables, but that's another story. I don't remember anything about the first day, except the dismissal. It is critical, that if you don't do anything else, you do two things on your first day. First, you need to know how each student is getting home. At 3:10, I had a group of little people around me, and one little boy was crying. I kept saying, "Peter, don't worry. You are a car rider, and your mom will be here soon. Peter, please stop crying." He cried for a very long time, and then finally said, "My name is not Peter, it is Jimmy. Are you sure my mom is coming!" Secondly, you need to know each of their names!
My favorite first day story is one I often tell about Haley Alvarado. So with her permission, I'll tell it once again. Haley's first class at Chets Creek was very challenging. In kindergarten you never know what you are going to get because nobody places the students evenly among classes because they don't know any of the children before the first day! Haley just happened to get a very challenging bunch that first year and quickly learned many things, including how to manage students with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). On the first day of her second year, she came to me a lunch time with a handful of new student forms. "I can't believe every student they have added to my class today has ADD. I have four new students and each one has ADD." "How do you know they all have ADD?" I asked. She pointed to the large letters at the top of each page that had ADD circled. "Haley, that doesn't mean they have ADD. That means "add" them to your class!"