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A Day in the Life

How to Keep a Class of 41 from Turning into a Zoo… On Your First Day of Teaching Ever

Written by JoAnna Duncan, TE Instructional Coach

blog pic“Are you Ms. Duncan?” asked a tiny person with three pigtails and hot pink Dora the Explorer tennis shoes. It was 8:10 a.m. and the day was already off and running.

“Why yes, I am. I’m so happy to have you here. Come on in and join us,” I replied to the smiling girl as she handed me a pink slip that notified me of a new student who had just been registered and added to my roster. It was my very first day of teaching, and I was determined not to let a thing throw me off course. In the many days of preparation and training leading up to this day, I had had multiple conversations with veteran teachers and school staff about what to expect and also to just expect the unexpected. So when I had one tardy student appear at my door to join us, I quickly welcomed her, pointed her to a seat, and kept moving with my introductory activity.

I was in the process of leading my class through a get-to-know you activity where I introduced myself and all of my pupils told us their names and their favorite cartoon. Everything was going according to plan, and as the newest addition, Jasmine, fell right in line, I was subconsciously giving myself a premature pat on the back.

Three minutes pass, and there is another knock on the door.

“Hi Ms. Duncan. You have another new student,” said the secretary as she guided another addition, this time a boy, through my doorway.

“Welcome,” I responded pleasantly. “Wow, our class just keeps on growing doesn’t it, boys and girls!”

To my surprise, this pattern of knocking and welcoming new students continued for the next hour and a half. On the outside I was upbeat and smiley so that I did not alarm or make any student feel unwelcome, yet on the inside growing more and more apprehensive as the total number of students reached 41. I was told that only 25 students would be entering my classroom, so I only had about thirty seats total in the whole room. “Plan for 25, give or take one or two,” they said. “No need to worry,” they said. “All students never show up on the first day,” they said. Well it appeared that “they” were wrong, and now I was faced with finding seats to accommodate 41 little people.

This was not in the thorough and well timed lesson plans that I had spent hours tweaking to make perfect. I was totally overwhelmed and all I could do to keep from crying was to keep telling myself that I was able to make it through anything. I remember leading my class down the hallway and the line looking like a small army as they went off to the computer lab. During my planning period, I went from class to class and janitor to secretary until I found unclaimed chairs for my students. We eventually all had chairs and somehow made it through that first day. The details are still a blur to this day.

Though my first day of teaching was chaotic and deviated from any plan for which I’d prepared, my class leveled off (two weeks later), and the school year was a success. I learned more about flexibility each day, and my students taught me patience, perseverance, and what it means to push myself and ultimately 25 little ones who counted on me to greatness.

What lessons have you learned through teaching?

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