Who Needs Whom? A Slice of Life Post about the First Day Back

Every Tuesday the amazing gang at Two Writing Teachers hosts a ‘slice of life’ challenge. Anyone who wishes to participate simply has to write a post on their blog exploring some aspect of their day. I write my SoL posts quickly (under an hour) and post them without much revision or editing

Today was my eighth first day of school. As often happens during the first week back, my throat is a desert and my feet feel like pulpy bundles of nerves. Two distinct pleasures mark every first day back: greeting my new students and reconnecting with old ones. Seeing old students can be intense, depending on last year’s relationships. Even though it’s only been nine weeks since I saw 2015-16’s kids, they can often feel like strangers. Students who hung out in my room before school, boys and girls who trudged up and down the hallways trying to find me just so they could relay the day’s accomplishments and struggles, no longer need me.

They’ve moved on to other students, teachers, and adults. The specific services I rendered, whether it be help on a writing assignment, tips for dealing with another teacher in the building, or simply a compassionate ear during the emotional gauntlet that is middle school, aren’t necessary. Maybe that’s not the best way to put it. I remember reading that caring relationships have two components: one person to offer care and another to receive it. Last year’s students now have a new crop of teachers to nurture them.

I’ve always found this aspect of teaching interesting. I spend 180 days working closely with students, gaining their trust, falling in and out of favor with them, and ultimately doing whatever I can to grow their love of literacy. Teach the writer, not the writing. And then after an academic year they move on. This can be a wonderfully humbling experience. So when I saw my boys in the hallway this morning, I didn’t take it personally when they kept our reunion conversations short. We fist-bumped, said ‘what’s up?’ and kept it moving. Because we all had new relationships to cultivate.

This year’s students seem pretty much just like last year’s students: awesome. For right now they remain almost featureless in my mind. I’ll spend the next 179 days learning to see who they are and how they express themselves. This year’s goal is pretty much the same last last year’s: to use literacy to help adolescents become caring individuals who are willing and able to read, write, and remix their worlds. In this capacity I function with an abundance of joy, here to work with every and any student who walks into my room.

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8 comments

  1. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski

    Hi Peter! I’ve always found that interesting too and you are right- this is an interesting piece in relation to the piece I wrote today, too. I think they may temporarily “forget us” or move onto the new teachers in their lives, but I do believe we hold a place in their memory. When I taught kindergarten, it sometimes hurt my feelings that my former students didn’t want to acknowledge me the next year. Now that I teach third, I feel like kids are more inclined to say hello and seem happy to see me. But- it is never the same as it was when we leaved and breathed in the space together.

    Like

  2. Adrienne

    I find that former students come around the first day or two, because of the ties we established last year. Then, those get longer and they are tethered closer to their new teacher.

    Like

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