Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Second First Day of Kindergarten

I still remember my first day of kindergarten. I was four years old; soon to be five, only a few days later, but still the youngest student in the class.

I remember being ushered into the room by my kindergarten teacher. I went straight to play with blocks while she dashed around madly organizing kleenex boxes and clorox wipes. I remember watching her console parents and kneel to redirect crying children. I remember noting how much patience that woman had.

I remember walking in to a room I'd never seen before, knowing no one in the school, having no prior knowledge to apply to my new situation, and not having a single clue what was going on. I was flying by the absolute seat of my pants, just waiting on the teacher to tell me what to do.

And somehow, sixteen years later, all my days of kindergarten, and elementary, and middle school, and high school, and college had brought me right back around full circle.

I was twenty-one years old; soon to be twenty-two, only a few days later, but still the youngest teacher in the building.

I set up my room and put tubs of blocks on each table. I dashed around madly organizing kleenex boxes and clorox wipes. I consoled parents and knelt to redirect crying children. And I noted how much patience I never knew I had until that moment. They always said that kindergarten teachers were gifted with a certain type of patience that no one else had. I get it now.

I walked in to a room I'd never seen before only a week prior. And once again, I knew no one in the school. I had no prior teaching experience to apply to my first year teaching. And I still didn't have a single clue what was going on. I was still flying by the absolute seat of my pants. Except now I was the teacher who was supposed to tell 20 four and five years olds what to do.

I didn't eat lunch my entire first week. I worked 14 hour days the week before school started, and 12 hours days the first week of school. My classroom is already a mess, like I promised myself it never would be. My desk is already piled high and disorganized, like I promised myself I'd never let it get. And I've never needed more sleep than I did this past weekend; not in all my years of band concerts and guard competitions and theatre productions. Five year olds take a special kind of energy.

But my heart is so full...and so is my wallet! That's right ya'll, pay day was on Friday, which is the best possible Friday you can have.

So thus far... Teaching is pretty much the weirdest thing I've ever done. I get to wake up every morning in a metropolitan area, and drive to work doing what I love most with the age group I love most, and then return home to have dinner and hang out with my love and best friend. And then, every two weeks, there's more money than I've ever seen collectively on one check being deposited into my bank account. I pay rent. I pay bills. I pay credit cards. And I get to pay for awesome stuff too, like clothes I like, and furniture I've wanted forever, and the best pasta at my favorite italian restaurant every once in awhile.

And it all occurred to me as I was driving home tonight, away from the skyline, getting ready to lay everything out for work tomorrow morning. I used to dread waking up to go to class. To go to rehearsal. To go to work. And somehow, I don't seem to mind to anymore. And I think that's the absolute best thing a girl could possibly ask for.

Will the year get harder? Absolutely, in some ways. The thing is: I don't know what I don't know. So I'm not sure how far behind I am, or what I'm forgetting, or what I should've done on the first day of school that I didn't do. But it'll also get easier in other ways. I'll get used to lesson planning quickly. I'll get used to stealing the copier at the busiest time of day. I'll get used to teaching and my kinders will get used to learning and in the end, we'll both have accomplished something amazing. We'll both have had our first year of school, together. And we couldn't have done it without each other.

There are times during the day I wish I was more experienced, and could make faster decisions, and could recycle some old lesson plans when I wanted to leave school early. But I also recognize that I will never get this experience again. The ability to figure life out with five year olds, who are also trying to figure their life out, is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I plan to savor every second of it.

I love my job. I love my apartment. I love Nashville, and the people I've met here. I love my home. I love my life. And I've never been more thankful of anything.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Bethany's First Classroom Reveal!

T'was the night before kindergarten, when all the through the house, a teacher was stirring, and so were the mice in her house. (Check out I Don't Think I Was Meant To Grow Up for that lovely story...)

We're cutting it a little close here at Bellshire Elementary. Our school had some beautiful and much-needed renovations completed over the summer, but that left us teachers with only one week to prep in our rooms, and the custodians were left to work around us while waxing the floors.

I walked in to chaos.

It was the first time I'd ever seen my room, and random furniture was thrown into each of them. I had no guided reading tables, one teacher desk that was falling apart, two sets of classroom chairs (neither the correct size for kindergarteners) and about forty-five more tables than I needed. There was some second grade curriculum in there, too: globes, workbooks much too hard for my kinders, etc...

But the whole team pulled together. We swapped until we all ended up with the correct curriculum. We stole furniture from everyone else's surplus pile. Teachers would roam the hallways yelling, "File cabinet?!" until someone would poke their head out and say "Come on in! I have four!"

Until finally, somehow, we were ready. (Or as ready as we'll ever be.)

So without further adieu... Welcome to Harper Headquarters! This is where Nashville's kindergarten detectives will become confident, creative, and curious...ready to make observations, search for clues and strategies, and ultimately learn new things until their case is cracked...and they are ready for first grade!

Special thanks to my kinder team for guiding me and swapping materials / furniture with me when everything was randomly piled in our room! Thanks to the janitors who helped us with our setups prior to waxing our floors, thanks to the tech team for installing everything in a matter of three days, and thanks to everyone who sent graduation money or school supplies / classroom essentials directly. And huge thanks to Dylan Roth for coming up basically every day to move and assemble furniture, hang everything out of my reach (i.e. ... nearly half my classroom), and for keeping me mentally sane through this crazy week! 

The first day of school is tomorrow... Kinder teachers, it's time to get our cray on!