Slice of Life Tuesday:Opening Day Letter

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Opening Day tomorrow.  My bags are packed, my alarm is set, I even think I know what I am going to wear.  I’ve been through many, many opening days in my time, and I never fail to feel that prick of anxiety.  I know that my kiddos are feeling the same way, too…

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Dear Sixth Graders,

It’s the night before your first day of middle school, and I know that you are probably just as anxious as I am.  That’s a funny thought, right? Who would think that a teacher, of all people, would be anxious about starting a new school year?!  But, the truth is that even after teaching sixth grade for as long as I have (longer than you have been around!), I still get butterflies when I think about the start of the school year and meeting a whole new group of sixth graders.   I still get nervous just thinking about all that lies ahead for us this learning year, which is such an important one for you.

Tomorrow, you will walk into Room 202, and we will have to figure out some “stuff” together – how your lock and locker work, how to get from one classroom to another in just four minutes of passing time, where the bathrooms are and how bathroom passes work, how to get to the cafeteria and make sure lunch time is pleasant and inclusive, what to do if you get lost in our big building.  Tomorrow will go by in a blur, it is a half day after all, and you will leave the building exhausted but also exhilarated.  You made it through your first day!   Tomorrow will really be a breeze.  I am  not nervous about tomorrow…but I have butterflies  about those first days after, when our work together really begins.

Here’s what I want you to know:

*Our sixth grade life is all about learning how to trust and value each other – we cannot share our reading, writing and thinking lives without those important anchors.  Grades and “right” answers are all very well and good, but how we help each other learn is much more important.  Our classroom community is built on trust and respect, because the search for answers to important questions begins with how we support each other in this process.

*We will all make mistakes, the important thing is to figure out what we learned from those mistakes.  And, the important thing is not be be so afraid of making a mistake that we don’t try, even if it means taking risks and challenging oneself.  I never  learned anything of value when I played it safe, and I want you to feel safe enough in our classroom to take risks and challenge yourself.

*Be kind to each other from the very first day.  We never really know what someone else may be going through at home or with their friends, and we never really know who is suffering quietly or behind an outward smile.  Practicing everyday kindness is a way of life in our classroom, it is an expectation and our only rule.  You will be surprised how much kindness helps to make each day easier to live in and live through.

That’s it, really.  Three things to remember about our year ahead, three things that will, I hope, become part of who you are in sixth grade and in the years after.  So, I have butterflies…because I know how big a role I play in making sure each of the above is possible for each and every one of you.   It’s an important learning year for both of us!

Here’s to tomorrow, and all the days after.  I can’t wait to see you and begin our journey together!

Mrs. Smith

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26 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday:Opening Day Letter

  1. The care inherent in the letter sings to me. Oh, how I wish you could have taught my son.

    Wishing you the finest of years, Tara.

  2. I felt those butterflies last week. When I told people I was nervous about the first meeting of the classes, they were surprised. I wish my grand girl could have you in class. She’s a sixth grader. Good luck. Make it a great year.

  3. I hope you found your first day outfit! 🙂 You sound like a most thoughtful, loving teacher. Kids need that, even in grade 6. Best wishes for an amazing year!!!

  4. Trust each other. Make mistakes. Be kind. We’d all do well to remember these rules. Best of everything today my dear friend. Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  5. You’ve said it flawlessly, Tara. Values, mistakes, and kindness – what perfect words of advice to convey to your students day in and day out. After all, school is so much more than the academics! I’ll be thinking of you on your first day. Have a great one! ~Amy

  6. This is close to what I was thinking last week, on my first day back with students, and your letter resonates with what we talked about on our first days. Nice to know we are not alone in our teacher-anxiety and the ways we calm our new students, too.
    Have a great day and week!
    Kevin

  7. You have perfectly captured many teachers’ feelings on the night before the first day of school. Oh, how I wish I could have seen this when I was a young student to know that my teachers were nervous too. Have a great first day, Tara!

  8. Lovely, maybe some day one of those 6th grade writers will grow up, become an author and publish a book, “Everything I needed to learn about life, I learned in the sixth grade.”

  9. I also teach 6th grade and, when I went to bed last night, my bags were packed, my alarm was set, I even planned what I was going to wear. You summed it all up so beautifully. Have a great first day. Your 6th graders are lucky.

  10. Tara, that is one of the most beautiful “back to school” letters I’ve ever read. It’s so important to share ourselves with our students and you certainly did a great job of that. Your kids are lucky to have you. No doubt they will learn and grow and become better people for spending a year in your room. Good luck!

  11. So by now, this morning has passed, & they will be excited, & like you, no longer nervous, because it was a terrific morning with a terrific teacher! Wonderful letter, with three things that are so important! Hurrah for the first day!

  12. And we can’t wait to read all about and learn from you!!! You are masterful in how you think about your learners as people and focus on creating a community of engaged learners. Your classroom is magical… this is one example of how you bring the magic to life!!
    Thank you for sharing
    Clare and Tammy

  13. At this point in time, those students have now entered the early stage of becoming a Smithling. What a wonderful thing to be! Yes, there is nervousness for both the teacher and student, but those feelings dissolve under the careful guidance of such a master teacher. It will be a memorable year, the year they joined the exclusive club of Smithlings.

  14. Your post was a breath of fresh air this morning, and echoed by my son’s teachers at his senior high school open house last night. Thank you for focusing on kindness and safety in learning!

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