Tomorrow was supposed to be the first day of school. And let’s face it, teachers spend a lot of time thinking about that day. Not in June, when we are saying goodbye to the students that we have come to know so very well. But surprisingly, very soon after, when we finally have the time to reflect, deeply reflect, on our accomplishments and on our missed opportunities. Because there are always some. For me, it’s always the “did I do enough question” especially for my students who struggle. The students who were just shy of reaching grade level in reading or math. The one’s who struggled with friendships or anxiety and the ones who struggle with their identity even at age 7. Teachers face these issues each and every day and we hope that “in the moment” we say and do the right thing, We teach and reteach, problem solve and counsel. We do our best. And then we look to the future and wonder, how can I do it better next year.
In Seattle, teachers went back to school a week ago. There were three days of professional development before the Labor Day Weekend. At my school, we talked about math, writing and reading, focusing on a new phonics curriculum. We welcomed new staff and had the rare opportunity to talk about curriculum with colleagues that teach in other grade levels. I work in a school with an amazing staff and for those 30 to 45 minute sessions, I was engaged and even inspired. But most of the time, I felt like our students must feel when everyone is expected to learn the same thing in the same way. So when those 3 days were over, it was what I didn’t hear that bothered me most. Even though our school just finished our first year, half year for some, as a 1to1 school, we didn’t talk about technology. We didn’t talk about giving kids the opportunity to drive their own learning. We didn’t talk about Wonder Wednesdays or Maker Spaces or Edcamps. I believe this was another missed opportunity.
And so today, I returned to my classroom and spent the day getting ready for my 26 new first graders. As always I was imagining the possibilities. Alicia and I want to engage students on that very first day. We want students working in groups and creating tutorials that will showcase what they know. Last year students created digital books with titles like “How to Grow a Plant” or “How to Be a Good Listener”. These tutorials created a baseline for learning. Our students quickly latched on to the idea that we are all experts at something and that each and every one of us can be both teacher and learner. It set the tone for our year. We were going to try it again tomorrow and this time trust that we could act as facilitators as we watched our youngest learners work together to create new learning and share it with one another.
But there will be no first day for us tomorrow. Seattle teachers are on strike. Tomorrow, Alicia and I will be on the picket line with thousands of our colleagues. All of us, dedicated educators, united by our passion that teachers and students deserve better. Would we rather be in our classrooms? Of course, but it’s time for us to take a stand, otherwise it would be just another missed opportunity for teachers to make a difference.