Slice of Life: The First Day

School is here, and those first-day jitters fill me. They always do.

Today, I hold up what drives my teaching practice, my values.  Thinking about this helps focus the first day of school and each and every day throughout the year. These values provide a filter.

First: I value time. Time for students to do the work. Time to read, to write, to think and to discuss. Students should spend at least 80% of their time doing the work. If not, who is learning.

Second: I value authenticity. If I can not see the practice in the world, if I would not do it myself, if I have not tried doing it, students should not be doing it.

Third: I value choice. Students should have a reasonable choice in what they read and write. Choice allows for accessibility and greater engagement. Without engagement, there is no learning.

Fourth: I value “yet.” All students can learn, they just may not be there yet. It’s our job to keep them growing.  And, growth is linked to time. Getting better at something requires time doing it. Something to remember with our students who struggle. They need time to do.

Fifth: I value relationships that respect the individual as a part of the community. Building relationships takes time and lots of listening.  It is essential for a classroom that works toward cooperation, not through compliance. Without relationships, everything else is compromised. I start my year, with this on my mind.

Today, I hold on to words of my wise colleagues.

I have Tara’s words

On that first day, they are watching me more closely than they possibly ever will, I need to show them that I practice what I preach.

Jessica’s words

The minute you walk through that door you become one of my students.

and Dana’s words

Writing workshop thrives on relationships and builds them at the same time.  Be intentional as you plan the first days and weeks of your writing workshop.  Make room for relationship building.   Relationships matter.

Their words center and calm me.

Tonight, I pull out my notebook and write. What I want for our class. What I value. What I want to run through each and every lesson of every day.

We will

start with writing

and add in the reading

look for the bits of the literary in our lives

that hide in the music, the recipes, the directions, the video games.

We will

generate powerful-purposeful-personal thoughts

and define us as readers and thinkers.

This year

we will

discover what we value

develop our passions

notice what bothers us and

move to make a difference.


we will

find the inspiration that pushes us to do more

reach to the top of the tree and look out

hang on knowing that we are there for each other.

Thank you, Two Writing Teacher for space to share and support each other. Thank you, Anna,, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Read more slices here.


16 thoughts on “Slice of Life: The First Day

  1. “Today, I hold onto the words written by Julieanne, the wise teacher from CA who I had the pleasure of meeting in person in NY, who led my virtual book club this summer that got me to spend valuable time experiencing authentic reading and writing and who because of our summer relationship, I can confidently say that I can now write about my reading instead of saying ‘not yet’ ”

    I know you will have a great year, Julieanne!! Your students are lucky to have such a smart, learner for their teacher!! Thanks again for a great summer of learning.

  2. What a perfect piece of writing to define your beliefs and what you hope your students will accomplish. All of the beliefs and values you set forth I agree with and affirm. (Not that you need me to, but I do!) I especially love the part about reaching the top of the tree but being there to support each other- turning “race to the top” on its ear a bit. Your students are very blessed to have you as are all the teachers you inspire in our professional communities.

  3. Oh how I want to be in your classroom today!!! Those students have no idea how blessed they are that YOU are their teacher!!! I love the time in your notebook, reflecting on your goals for the year. (Post a pic of your notebook page!!!) My favorite line in here…”look for the bits of the literary in our lives”!!! YES! Happy First Day!!!

  4. Oh, my goodness, I LOVE this post! I love it because it echos so many of my own beliefs and thoughts expressed in a way that I can only aspire to. I have appreciated learning from you this summer.

  5. My first day is still a few weeks away but you have inspired me! My favorite line is this:

    we will

    find the inspiration that pushes us to do more

    reach to the top of the tree and look out”

  6. Beautiful! This year my theme is Get Lost & I want them to get lost in their thoughts, interests, beliefs & passions! If I may, I’d like to use your poem to introduce that to them. It elegantly states what I’d love for my class. Thank you…

  7. Thank you for this inspiration, particularly your lyrical meditation; I appreciate how naturally it flows from humble goals (“we will start with writing”) to world-changing resolutions. A motivating post the day before school starts!

  8. This will be an exceptional year in the lives of your students! I love that your poem is written like a recipe for a literate life. Those children are blessed to have you leading them into their last year at the elementary. What a great one you will have!

  9. It would be lovely to share this with your students, colleagues and parents, Julieanne. The words are beautifully written, and something firm to hold for the year. Happy First Day to you!

  10. I love your first day poem. That tree image, reaching for the top and supporting each other. My prayers are with you as you begin that your year will be all of these hopes and more. Thanks for making me part of your door. I feel I am there with you, watching.

  11. Julieanne,
    Yes, those are the values that are evident in your conversations, your writing and I am sure in your classroom! Time, yet, choice, relationships and authenticity – and you all are OFF! Not a second to be wasted!

    You and your class will have a fabulous year!

  12. Julieanne, I love the way you constructed this slice, but more importantly, I love what you have to say. Clarifying your values right up front helps everything else fall into place naturally. Your poem holds true for teachers, as well, and I will refer to it often as I work with my colleagues throughout the coming year. Have a wonderful year!

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