Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Every teacher has their own quirky moves and phrases. Think back over your years in school, and I'm sure you'll think of a few. Teachers have catchphrases that they are likely to say in class (and the kids do notice) and they have habits for how they act, and even particular gestures that come to define them.

If you are a teacher, you probably are aware of some of these in yourself too. I know that over the years, I have regularly used a few catchphrases:
  • When I was a middle school math teacher (years and years ago now!) and we were working on an especially difficult problem and it all worked out, I would say, "Fine-and-dandy, cotton-candy!" as the kids rolled their eyes.
  • As a middle school science teacher, I trained myself to respond to students with, "Interesting!" instead of "right" or "wrong." This was a deliberate choice; I didn't want to shut down their thinking with my judgment of their (in)correctness, and "interesting" welcomes them to think more deeply.
  • When a student says to me, "I have a question..." I almost always respond immediately with, "I have an answer...let's see if they match up."
  • I still break out with "Baby ducks!" if I'm excited or frustrated or amused by something that happens in class. (This is a great general-purpose euphemism.)
Why bring this up?

One thing I often used to do at the beginning of the day with my homeroom students was to start the day by slowly saying:



the first day...

of the rest of your life.

It usually only took a couple days of this before the whole class would say it with me.

Why start the day this way?

Part of it was that is was...well...a catchphrase. Something that was just part of the goofy culture of being in Mulder's homeroom.

But another part of it--hopefully the more meaningful part--was the ritual of it: a reminder that each day is a new one. Not that we ignore the past, not at all. But that we don't have to live in the past.

Over time, the catchphrase actually evolved a bit: instead of just "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," we added...

What are you going to do with it?

I was hoping to give the kids a nudge with this. Are they content to just stay where they are currently? Am I?

Today is a gift to you. You don't have to live in the past, though you are rooted in it. What are you going to do with today?


  1. I love this post--What would be interesting to me is to see what the kids think my go to phrase is!

    1. Thanks, Deb! You're right--the kids are probably the ones who know our quirks best. (I cringe to think of my students doing their best Mulder-impressions...I think I'm probably an easy target...) :-)