Day 1, Part 1, In Person

Apologies in advance for any lack of coherence here. This was likely the hardest first day of school I’ve ever done and it wasn’t a first day of school really!

I’ve heard again and again this year how hard concurrent teaching is. As I’ve been virtual since last March, I had no expertise to throw into the ring. Today that changes. I spent my day with nine of my 17 third graders. Those same nine will return tomorrow. There will be eight on Thursday and Friday (seven new ones and one who comes all four days because her mom teaches at our school – one is remaining fully virtual because her parents are currently, temporarily split between two states due to work so virtual is perfect).

Those who are not in the building are in class virtually. As of last week I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to teach virtually. So I felt good about my skills as an in person teacher and my skills as a virtual teacher. Today I felt like I sucked at both. (Not awful, but definitely far from good.)

My husband and I married the Saturday before Christmas, many years ago. We opted to wait to take our honeymoon until later, as family was all around for the holidays after the wedding. We honeymooned in Spain and my husband had to drive the rental car as he had turned 25 by then and I had not. We knew it would be a stick shift, something I drove but he didn’t. So I taught him before we left. One day, not long into this process, he said to me, “I used to be a good driver. Now I suck.”

He’d been driving an automatic for a decade. He felt comfortable and confident doing so. Adding a clutch changed everything. (For the record, he learned to love driving a stick shift and opted for that with his next car.) Being comfortable and confident at something and suddenly not knowing how to do it is really rough.

This story came to my mind again and again the year I moved from teaching 4th and 5th graders to teaching 1st graders. I’d been a teacher for a decade. I was National Board Certified. I felt good about what I knew and was able to do. A few days with six year olds and all of that changed. I felt completely incompetent. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

Today wasn’t quite that hard. But it was rough. My virtual students definitely didn’t get from me what they normally would. They didn’t get the attention, the responses, the focus on their needs. My in person kiddos got frequent reminders about wearing their masks properly, staying distant from others, and washing their hands. Not ideal either.

It wasn’t terrible. There were many, many moments that made my heart sing as a teacher. We’re going to be okay. I’m just still grieving what we’ve all lost as a community of learners. I can “honor what was lost” and “commemorate what we found” at the same time. I can feel all of the feelings.

I know it will get better. And it wasn’t a bad day. I can see the good as well as the parts that were lacking. I just seem to be really good at focusing on the parts that are lacking. I do so in order to improve, but sometimes I need the reminder to find the good things. (Hence, my great love for One Good Thing.)

My One Good Thing today (although there were many) would be having kids reading in our classroom again. It was a total highlight of my day. Twenty solid minutes, at least, of students quietly absorbed in books they chose from our classroom library.

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