Category Archives: first day

First Day of School: Four Reassuring Facts for Parents

Bus Stop Sign

Can you hear the squealing of bus brakes?

Do you remember that sound? Can you ever unhear that sound?

Has your neighborhood endured school buses stopping at the corner, children racing to opening doors, and kindergarten moms screaming good luck? Maybe you also noticed some parents’  tears as you looked out from behind your living room blinds.

Maybe those tears were your own.

Yes, it’s true. The first day of school is upon us.

In fact if you’re in my district or one close by in the Richmond, Virginia area, you too will begin your year on the day after Labor Day. In my county alone, 59,000 students will arrive at their school for the first day – that’s a lot of energy, anxiety and excitement.

Others in private school have already started their first day and I expect have probably nailed down procedures and begun earnest teaching.

For me, I’m still wondering where the summer went. Maybe that’s the same for you and your child.

The first day of students arriving to the sound of the school bell seems to sneak up on us every year. Perhaps because teachers are lulled, much like our students, into thinking that summer is endless. I know when I was younger, I felt that way too. Frankly, I still think that way.

I clearly remember the last school day this past June and how there was cheering while the buses left the building. There was singing, there was crying and there was joy – for students too.

Summer began that day. Vacations to places far away would be taken. Tans were achieved.  We were able to spend some time with our own children. Doctor visits were scheduled. Errands were run on weekday mornings. We even marveled at how “the other half” go to lunch on weekdays, seem to enjoy their meal, and return back to their office – quite amazing to see.

Today, this first day of school, students (and yes, teachers too) are woken up at an early hour. An hour that seems inhumane to most. There’s complaining about it being too early from many while there are others that throw back the sheets in celebration.

New outfits have been laid out next to the bed. Or old outfits are pulled off the hangers and thrown on. Hair is carefully combed with just the right amount of product while others might just forego any sort of hair prep. I myself am sporting a beard longer than ever that takes way too much primping for someone my age.

Day One. A hundred and seventy, or so, to go until Summer vacation arrives yet again.

Each year I hear colleagues complaining about returning to their jobs after being off for a couple of months. I hear the same from my own children. Part of me thinks “get over it, you’ve had lots of free time”. Part of me understands completely.

We like our freedom. Freedom to schedule our days to include what we want to do. Isn’t that what we all really want?

Of course for some of you at home, freedom is returned when those children get on the buses. Your quiet time has been returned to you and for that I say – you’re welcome.

So whether you are seeing your first or last child off to school, whether this is the year your child enters high school or whether you dropped off your child at the bus stop.

Here are four teacher facts on the first day of school that I hope you’ll remember and be reassuring as you watch your child leaves for school.

1) We strive to be ready for your child’s arrival.  Your teachers have been preparing their classrooms  for over a week. Some even came to work well before their teacher work week began. It’s not that they were excited about working in the un-airconditioned rooms, it’s more about taking the time to get it right. Some even went to their classroom this past weekend to be sure all was in order – I did that.

2) We’re more than interested in your child being successful, we want them to leave at the end of the day wanting more. This past week class rolls were given and staff meetings introduced the year’s focus. In our district we ventured out into other schools to mingle with colleagues and learn new approaches that would better connect with students (my take away was the excellent teacher resources at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts). Bulletin boards were created and posters hung. We participated in teacher learning sessions and set up our gradebooks. Lesson plans have been made and get-to-know-you worksheets are already sitting on desks. Teachers have worried about being ready and shared that they wished that they had more time.

3) We want your child to feel welcome. On Tuesday morning, we will stand by our doors and welcome this year’s group to their seats and warmly introduce ourselves as their teacher. We have thought about the importance of students feeling safe and how we will encourage them to ask questions and take risks. The first day is planned – in fact every minute of the day has been thought out. We will be writing down bus numbers and re-checking those lists as they board those buses for home.

So as the sound of the bus becomes faint as it leaves your neighborhood, please know what we teachers await your students arrival. Then the school bell will undoubtedly ring and class doors will close officially beginning what we hope will be a memorable first day.

So whether elementary, middle or high school… 4) On this first day of school I want you to know that we care about your child.

Here’s to a great year for you and your child.


Have a great story to share? I would love to hear your thoughts on the first day of school. Please take a moment to share your comment.

An Open Letter To My Future Students

Letter to Students

You don’t know me. Yet.

I am your future teacher.

As soon as you were put on my classroom roll, I cared about you.

Does that sound weird to you?

Well that’s just us teachers. We’re an interesting bunch. Most of us became teachers because how we feel about kids and wanting to help. We remember. It wasn’t always easy being the son or daughter and having to pull ourselves together to sit in a classroom and endure.

I thought I would write this letter to you to let you know the type of teacher I am and my hopes for this year. Maybe you’ll think this is odd or maybe you’ll like it. Maybe when you come on the first day of school this letter will make you feel a little better – I hope it will.

I don’t know much about you beyond your picture. You were smiling for the camera. I’m sure the people at home loved it. I wonder if they have that picture pinned to the refrigerator like I’ve done with my kids’ pictures. Expect to hear stories about them throughout the year and when I get home I will probably share stories about you with them.

Now that I’ve had my class roll about a week I’ve copied your name more than a few times for all kinds of reports or labels you don’t know about yet. I can spell your name pretty well by now, I just might mispronounce it on the first day. You can count on me doing my best to get it right pretty quickly. No one likes their name mispronounced. I didn’t – imagine all the ways Kaminski can be said out loud the wrong way. It’s a whole bunch.

I don’t know if you’re awesome at reading or if math frustrates you like it did me when I was in elementary school. I wasn’t always awesome at school. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. Either way is ok with me. I just want you to be better at the important stuff by the time you finish our year together.

I don’t know much about your teacher last year even if you were at my school. I didn’t spend all those days with you last year, so I don’t know how it went. I haven’t hunted down your teacher to learn all about you because I want to us to get to know each other first.

Maybe you love school and all the things you might learn or maybe you hate every bit of it – I hope you don’t hate school. When I became a teacher I told myself I wanted to be the kind of teacher that students would want to see in the morning.

School can be a tough place, but shouldn’t be. Our classroom can be the kind of place where we all help each other. If we’re having a tough day and need a friend, we should be that person. If we’re having a great day, we should celebrate.

So I’m asking you to care.

Care about doing your best. Care about your friends and even those people you don’t know yet. Care about our classroom and making it the best place it can be. We’re going to spend a lot of time together and I want you to feel safe. Safe to ask questions and not always get the answers right. I want you to feel good about our class and how you’re treated.

About the humor thing. If I tell a joke that you think is corny or say something in a funny voice, it’s because I’m after a smile. I’ll try to wait a while before I start all that, although that’s hard for me. I like to hear students laugh. Sometimes students misunderstand and think that when I’m trying to funny, I’m not serious about your learning – totally untrue. That’s why I’ll go easy on the jokes at first. You need some time to get used to how we do things and who I am.

If I tell you a story it’s because I want you to learn something important. Sometimes stories are a lot more fun than just being told if something is right or wrong.

If I get serious with you it’s because I care.

You’ll probably hear me tell the class about this guy Randy Pausch who wrote the book The Last Lecture. He came up with a list of life rules and one of them is about when he was playing football as a kid. His coach was really tough on him one day. One of the assistant coaches came up to him after practice and said he noticed how tough practice was – how the coach had been riding him. Then that coach told him something that sounded crazy. He told that tired football player how lucky he was because if his coach didn’t care, he wouldn’t have ever been tough on him. He just would’ve walked away and not spent the time trying to make him a better player.

Maybe you’ll understand I care about you when I get disappointed. I have high hopes for you. Maybe you won’t understand.  I don’t think I would have gotten it when I was your age. I would have just thought the teacher was mean. I’m not mean.

By the way, when I was your age, I was really shy and quiet. I never wanted the teacher to call on me because I didn’t want to get the answers wrong in front of everyone. You should know it’s ok to guess and not get everything right. It’s really important that you try your best.

You aren’t my first class. You are my 14th.

For the last 13 years I have taught a lot of students who each year have come into my class about 180 times – that’s a lot of hellos.

Now let’s do just a little math, just a little I promise. That’s about 325 students since I started teaching. Well, there’s more than that because I taught some kids who came to my class just for math or social studies. So it’s probably closer to about 400 now.

That’s a lot of talking and teaching. That’s a lot of time together every year.

So you can trust the fact that I’m ready for you to arrive.

I’ve had some practice.

Remember when I told you about being better at the important stuff by the time you leave my class? When I say that I don’t mean math or reading or science or social studies or writing. I’d be a bad teacher if I told you I didn’t care about those things. I do want you to get better at those subjects so you’ll be ready for the next grade.

What I mean though is that I hope you’ll be a better person after we’ve spent a year together. I hope you’ll look around more, notice more, care more and share more. I hope you’ll learn more about yourself and really understand that you have gifts. They make you both awesome and different than anybody else.

Last thing, because this is getting kinda long and this isn’t reading class so we should finish up. You should know that I think about you when I go home and probably the next day when I go back to school again.

Teachers do that, you know. They don’t leave school and forget about what happened that day. If you had a bad day I will wonder why and what I can do to help. I’ll even wonder if I did something that made your day less than awesome. If you had a great day, I’ll be cheering even if you can’t hear me. Can you tell I want you to have a great year?

So, see you on the first day of school.

Remember to relax and be ready to start a great year together. I look forward to getting to know you.