The first week of school
Lower Elementary students are sitting in a circle as a teacher reads The Name Jar, a picture book about a young Korean girl named Unhei who moves with her family to the United States. The girl is nervous and excited about the first day of school, and embarrassed because her name is difficult for her new classmates to pronounce. “It’s natural to feel excited and nervous about the first day of school,” the teacher shares with the students. “Some friends are nervous. Meeting new people and learning new names. Sometimes we have to practice names. A person’s name is important to them.” After completing the story, the teacher asks the students, “what’s the story of your name?” Students share with each other what they know about their own name.
The first week of school is a time when everyone, students and adults, are excited and nervous. So this is a week when great care is taken by teachers and staff at Oak Meadow to help all of the students be part of creating a learning environment that will be positive and support individual growth.
Here are just a few of the things I observed in visiting classrooms this week:
- Classmates meeting each other and learning each others’ names
- Getting to know each other during morning circle time
- Learning where things are in the classroom
- Learning about new classroom materials with guidance from the teacher
- Learning how to adjust to school routines
- Getting organized with school supplies
- Taking a tour of the whole school to explore other classrooms and offices, and meet other adults
- Learning the playground rules so everyone can be safe
- Learning to wait until others are finished before you speak
- Getting started on the classroom Charter, an “agreement” that the students help to develop together, based on how they want to feel, and what they will do throughout the year in order to make sure everyone in the classroom can feel that way. It takes a few weeks to complete the Charter writing process which becomes a central reference all year to guide the students’ interactions with each other and their teachers and also in making amends when inevitable mistakes are made.
This week, Upper Elementary students all assembled together in one of the large classrooms, to share their summer experiences. The teachers also participated, sharing first, and then the students each shared. Students used a variety of formats — slides, posters, photos, memory books, etc. There was great excitement as everyone was able to share in the experiences of others. This is another installment in developing solid relationships with each other in conjunction with the learning that takes place in the classrooms.