by Liz DeHaven, Intermediate/Middle School Grades Trainer at the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative
***Note- prior to joining the Intermediate/Middle School team this past February, Liz taught third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades and worked as a Literacy Coach in a Title I school in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Thirty years ago I started kindergarten as a small, shy 4-year-old clad in a blue and white seersucker jumper, a crisp white button down shirt, and unscuffed, barely broken-in saddle shoes. I waited for the bus at the end of the street with my pink Smurfette lunch box, a little bit of courage, and my mom. I don’t remember much about kindergarten, except for a girl named Amy, who had the same lunch box, which when you’re 4 is an unmistakable sign you are kindred spirits, and naptime. I remember naptime because I didn’t sleep. Instead I spent twenty minutes—an eternity to a small child—lying on my cot and staring at the ceiling. If only it were possible to reclaim all those unused, wasted naps.
It’s hard to believe this is the first September in 30 years I won’t be heading back to school. I won’t have the first day jitters. I won’t set up a classroom or plan professional development for my colleagues. This summer I shopped at Target without hyperventilating as I walked by the Back-to-School section that appears sometime in June, either on or just after the last day of school. A moment far worse than discovering the mall has decorated for Christmas…in October.
As I think about my former colleagues preparing for this upcoming year, I think about the freshness that September brings and the opportunity to make this an important year for students. So much of the first month is centered on building community in the classroom and creating a safe environment in which students feel comfortable taking risks with their learning.
September might be one of my favorite months for reading and writing workshop. It’s a time to talk about books through interactive read aloud and conferences and to learn about new ones through book talks. It’s a time to share stories and plant seeds in the writer’s notebook. It’s a time to lay the foundation for the authentic work our students will do this year as readers and writers. It’s exciting and it’s fun. There’s so much content to cover in one year that it’s easy to forget the important work meant for September. I encourage you to protect this time and build a strong foundation that will serve you well throughout the year.
Though I won’t miss the night before the first day of school when I revert back to the 4-year-old version of myself that doesn’t sleep, I will miss the energy permeating the hallways and classrooms during September.