Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Days of School

Today was the first day of classes at Dordt. I had the wonderful experience of meeting up with 65 students beginning Education 101 today.

Ah, the first day...

I have had a total of 33 "First Day of School" experiences so far, if you count everything from preschool on. Sort of weird when I think of it that way--since I was 4 years old, I've never not had a "First Day" that year! Someone once commented to me that this is one of the best things about teaching: the rhythms of the academic year...beginnings, middles, endings, breaks...  I love it.

I remember my first college class very vividly. It was the fall of 1994. My friends and I--perhaps a little cocky--entered the lecture hall and sat down right in the front row. And then we noticed the professor eyeing us.

Clad in a "Marvin the Martian" t-shirt, shorts, and sandals.

Shaved head and long gotee, John Lennon-style glasses perched on his nose.

Not standing behind the podium, but sitting on top of it.

And staring at us.

(Too late to change seats?)

And he started off class talking about the percentage of people who typically did not pass the class. As my friend Matt put it, "a good way to ensure the students start taking notes immediately." We were all thoroughly impressed (or terrified). Looking back, I guess I wasn't sure what to expect from my first college class...but that was probably not what I was expecting.

Now, this was 18 years ago. The freshmen in my EDUC 101 class this morning were...born 18 years ago. (Yikes.) I'm hoping they had a less terrifying, but equally intellectually challenging first day with me. But the fact that I remember the details of my first college class so clearly means it was a big deal for me. I can admit it now, I was scared on my first day of college.

The big thing I noticed today (more than ever before) is how the newness of this experience is off-putting for some students. I had about five students stay after class in each section this morning to be sure they were clear on (what I thought were) small points we had talked about.

Not small to them. This is their new world and, for some of them, it's a scary place for all the unknowns.

Good to remember. First days--for all their excitement--can be scary.

And...if I'm honest with myself...I was a little scared this morning too. Teaching is a fearful thing, you know? Putting yourself on display like that. Hoping you don't fall flat on the first day.

If you know any teachers, wish them well as they get started this year. If you know any students, lift them up as they begin a new year. Pray for them. Encourage them. Love up on them.

First days are scary, after all.

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