My colleagues say that no one is more nervous about the first day of school then the teachers. Today was my third “first day of school” from the position as teacher. Although I was eager and excited for the day to begin, I couldn’t help but feel anxious as I walked down the stairs, attendance folder in hand, ready to meet twenty smiling faces that will greet me every morning for the next ten months. So many questions ran through my mind: Have I planned enough activities for the day? Does my room look ready to go? Do I look as exhausted as I feel from a sleepless night of fear for being late on the first day?
I am fairly certain that these are questions I will ask every September. But as the morning progressed, I tried to remind myself that the first day of school is not about me. It’s about the seven and eight year old boys and girls who experienced the first day of Grades 2 and 3. As such, the first week of school is about building community, allowing children to see that they have a special place within their classroom.
Building community is really the foundation for the rights-respecting classroom. Children must feel that they are appreciated individually but also as part of a greater community, which empowers them through a sense of belonging. For these youngsters, this was visually displayed as they walked into the classroom this morning, as our classroom bulletin board reads “We All Fit Together in Room 202,” accompanied by brightly coloured puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together, bearing the names of all students. The concept of “fitting together” is theme for the first few weeks of school. Together we will learn about our unique interests and learning styles, and ask questions about our life stories and family histories. By learning about themselves and each other in these ways, the students are introduced to the idea of having a place in world, which is the stepping stone to rights-based practices in the global classroom.