observations and thoughts on the wonder of children as they explore their world

August is the January – Beginning Anew

No, that’s not true. August is not the “new” January.  Rather,  August has been “January” for decades to me and countless others as the start of school gets underway.

There’s a difference this year, I’m not starting school nor starting something new in September. Yet the patterns of heart, mind, and body drive me to think and act as if I am starting something new.  For some, the calendar year-end signals a new beginning. For others, it’s the new dawn of spring. But for me, it’s as if the browning grass and abundant gardens simultaneously signal the ripening of the past year’s activity and time to prune away what no longer serves us.  So we can begin anew.

For over forty years, September meant the start of school for me as a student or teacher or both.  I remember the summer before Kindergarten when my mother left me at my grandmother’s and during the one phone call we had that week (remember, it was something like $0.89/minute for a long distance call and those were rare) she told me she made me new dresses and bought me a red mushroom umbrella.  After we hung up, I strode down the hall, imagining those new dresses, twirling that umbrella. It felt even better the following week when I pranced off to school wearing my “numbers dress” in the sunshine, umbrella serving as a walking stick to punctuate my enthusiasm for Kindergarten.

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Every year, I looked forward to organizing school supplies and clothes and adding to my collections of “school stuff.”  Once the physical environment was set up, the real fun began. What could I learn? What were my co-learners – teachers and kids – like? How would we get along? What would we build, write, create? What would we sing? Would I have friends? These questions are part of the newness and joy that comes for many as the school year approaches.  I love the flow of August into September, and then September into October.  It’s a time to get to know each other and then dig into the real work of learning with and from each other.

The start of school, as outlined by those smart teachers at Responsive Classroom, taught me the value in the deliberate envisioning, articulating, community-creating ways that provide a solid foundation for my classes.  Year after year, I turned to the book, The First Six Weeks of School  to  help me facilitate my class coming together, based on who they were, as well as our mutual and individual goals.  As a mentor teacher and presenter for Responsive Classroom, I encouraged and guided teachers who were new to Responsive Classroom to trust in these effective practices.  The return on investment with this type of planned entry  which builds community, lets members get to know each other and engages everyone in challenging, fun activities, is enormous.  I’ve seen it in preschoolers, first graders, and middle schoolers and adults!  Easing the transition from summer to school becomes easier when expectations are clear, developmentally appropriate activities are designed to value the strengths and gifts each person brings to the group, and we ease in slowly.

Here are some resources to get you thinking and planning for the start of school and the start of the new year:

  • Not familiar with the First Six Weeks, read about the 2nd edition of this must-have resource.
  • Want to see and hear about the start of school?
  • Planning to start the year with hopes and dreams? Read about some tips here.
  • Looking to help students think with a positive mindset?
  • Looking to get to know your group? Here are some strategies from Mike Anderson.
  • Stay Organized and on top of all those details that come with teaching, including take care of yourself.

If some of this sounds familiar, yes, I’ve written on this topic before as I reflected on Jumping Back into School, Easing Back into the Next Chapter  and Finding the School Groove.

After a long hiatus, Wonder of Children is back. I hope you return next week as I share more about what the new September brings.  If you are signed up to get updates, I’d love for you to take a moment and do so at the bottom of this page or at the top right of the home page.

With gratitude and well-wishes for the start of school,

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Lisa Dewey Wells

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