Tuesday, August 26, 2008

first day of school

When I was a kid, my mother took a picture every year, on the first day of school. It was always my brother and me, at the end of our driveway, ready to get on the school bus. Some years she actually got a picture of the moment we stepped onto the bus. New shoes, new clothes, new backpacks, you know the drill.

Here's mine for this year. Today was my first ever day of teaching graduate school. Imagine that. I'm afraid I still look like a student, but the actual students didn't ask to see my ID or anything, so I guess I fooled them.

I'm teaching a curriculum class for pre-service teachers in their first semester of a two-year master's degree. The class is about how to make the work we do in elementary classrooms more interesting, more fun, more holistic, better for kids. I'm hoping it's going to be fun, for me and the students.

Here's what I asked them today: Why are you here? What are schools for? What do we as a society hope to accomplish by setting up schools and classrooms? What do you hope to accomplish as a teacher?

Here's what I'm asking you: What do you think these pre-service teachers should know, about schools, about teaching, about kids, as they enter this profession?


Mrs. G. said...

You look beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Do students dress like that up your way? You look to be dressed more in what one of my former colleagues called her "lady lecturer's outfit". I hope it goes well. I'm betting some of them will be totally freaked out by your questions. I think this is a very good thing. One should always make students uncomfortable at the beginning (at least university students).

elsie deluxe said...

No, I suppose not. The students were mostly in jeans. I guess what I should have said is that I really still FEEL like a student. Turns out I don't look like one at all. Fine with me. :-)

Casey said...

Congratulations on your first day!

I would remind teachers-in-training that schools and the school system, ideally, would exist to serve the individual students, not the other way around. Too often it seems that the students must fit the institutional mold, to meet the institution's needs, rather than getting their own educational needs met. This is a top-down thing; counter it whenever you can.

I would remind them that learning is what children are born to do -- that observing and supporting kids' natural drive to master their surroundings (helping them to do it themselves) is the basis of good teaching.

As a former preschool teacher, the daughter of a career teacher and the relative and in-law of many more, I would remind teachers that working with children is a privilege and a responsibility. If you ever become one of those teachers who's always complaining about how "the kids don't want to learn anymore" or telling tales about the latest troublemaker, it's time to reassess your career and probably to move on, both for the sake of your students and for the sake of your own heart and outlook.

Finally, I would thank them for caring enough about young minds to invest their time in teaching, and remind them to take care of themselves and their own need to keep learning and exploring the world around them, so that it can always seem as new and exciting to them as it does to the children they are lucky enough to teach.

Anonymous said...

You look positively professorial :)

What Casey said. Use technology wisely--just because it's available and kids seem to like it doesn't mean you have to use it. (My kids are being exposed to far too much TV and computer time in their schools right now. I'm having some palpitations about it.) Remember that kids will learn to serve society if they learn to love society, so don't prevent that love by indoctrinating and restricting them too much--it is much better for children to love school than to simply tolerate it.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are asking them those questions. but my feeling is that Goffman's idea of "total institution" more accurately describes schools. Someone must have done a study using that approach (though he developed it in relation to mental health in a book called Asylums).

Ipo said...

i have seen many of those said first day of school photos of you and my dh :-))

congrats on the class starting - how was the first day?

Tara said...

Great photo! You look so cute.
I'm a little late in the game here. I guess I would ask them all to read "Our Last, Best Shot," so that they might remember what a difference each gesture makes -- positive or negative. I remember overhearing my 6th grade teacher tell another student a skit I had written was stupid. Ouch! That one still stings 30 years later.
I hope you'll write about the questions you ask and the answers you get. It will be interesting to read.

sheila said...

I hope the first day went well!

I'd ask them to be subversive in their thought processes. Sounds trite, I know, but I've met a lot of teachers who don't think outside conventions when they should (which is also why I happen to be homeschooling my 3 kids). Get them to read Jane Healy. And tell the kids that video games and TVs are not going to give them exciting, thrilling, interesting lives. And I also echo Casey's last paragraph: never stop learning on your own.

shaun said...

How exciting -- I'm so jealous of the adults I know who are going off to school this fall, either as students or teachers.

I wish I knew what teachers should know -- I'd be happy to tell you. Maybe, above all, do no harm?