Back to School: Whose Classroom Is This Anyways?


If you’re like most teachers, you want that first day of school to go perfectly, don’t you?

You want your students to like you. You want them to be excited about coming back the next day. You want your colleagues to be impressed with the way that your class is organized. You want the school principal to be happy about the way that your students behave on that first day. You want the parents of your students to have confidence in your ability to take their children to new heights in the world of learning.

In short, you want to be SUPER-TEACHER.

(Well, at least, I did!)

I’ve been thinking about the 30 “September startups” that I had during my teaching career. I’ve been thinking about the way that I prepared for that day of first impressions. And I’ve been thinking about how my preparation for the first day of school changed over the years—and the difference that those changes made to the way the rest of the school year went.

There were more than a few contradictions associated with those first first days.

I wanted students to feel welcome, (That’s what it said on my bulletin boards), but I also wanted to let them know that I was in charge of this space.

I wanted them to bring a sense of wonder and curiosity to school, but I had already meticulously planned just about everything that was about to happen during those first weeks of school.

I told them how important their voice was in my classroom, but I set out strict guidelines for what to do when they wanted to speak, how loud (or subdued) their voices could be at any given time and even the type of language that I expected them to use. Truth be told, on those very first days I would do most of the talking.

I didn’t think I was a bad teacher. In fact, if my memory serves me, we had a pretty good time on the first day of school. I played the guitar and sang songs. We did improv. We told funny stories from our summer.  We even did some math!

But I did believe that the success of my year would depend on how successful I was at firmly establishing my answer to the question: “Whose classroom is this anyways?”

I passed by our local elementary school early this morning and noticed a few more cars in the parking lot. And I also noticed several kids walking around the school, occasionally stopping to push their noses up against a classroom window. Inside school buildings across the country, teachers are beginning to prepare for the arrival of their students while outside, those same students are wondering what the year will hold for them.

And, in the few weeks that remain before that first day of school, that question of ownership hangs in the warm summer air.

Whose classroom is this anyways?




One response to “Back to School: Whose Classroom Is This Anyways?”

  1. […] Stephen Hurley about caring for students, planning for the emotional side of the classroom, and co-creating a classroom with students. This stuff is really […]

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