The First Day of School

With the prospect of cursive looming ominously on the horizon, or the knowledge that math will now be a whole year more difficult, it’s no wonder students get nervous on the first day of school. Similarly, the prospect of having to deal with all of those anxious children all day who don’t even know yet where the glue sticks are kept is enough to make teachers jittery that first morning. Not to mention the fear that a few students will fail to abide by the First Day Statute of Good Behavior that says that everyone must be perfect on day one in order to impress their new teacher. There’s also the possibility that those recurring school nightmares that started in July will come true. Really, there are many good reasons for all involved parties to be nervous.

On the first day of school every year, I give students a survey about the first day as their homework assignment. One of the questions asks students to tell what their biggest worry was going into the classroom on that first morning.

my biggest worry was to not act up

knowing my math

I was worry about my test score

to make a real big mistake

name put on the board

When I thought I wasn’t going to make friends

That we would have to do a lot of homework

Whin I met my new teach I thot she wont like me

My biggest worry was spelling.

I thought I was going to have a mean teacher

Actually nothing

Wish me luck tomorrow!


There used to be a charter school above a CVS in my neighborhood and I was always a little bit jealous of the extreme convenience I'm sure those teachers enjoyed. Out of construction paper in the classroom? No problem--just run downstairs right quick and stock up. Short on blank CDs but need to burn the math PowerPoint onto a disc? If the teacher was in the middle of a reading group, maybe she could even send a responsible student downstairs with a twenty. This CVS-adjacent school was definitely well covered in an office supply or even vitamin or hairspray emergency.

My old school in small-town Louisiana was not really anything-adjacent. There were some horses in a pasture across the street, but I very rarely found myself in need of something a farm animal could offer. Other than that, the school was surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Short on construction paper or blank CDs? Out of luck. The nearest hope was one of three dollar stores--a large number of dollar stores, I must say, for a town of 2,000--but they were across town. The nearest teacher store, Staples or Office Depot was 35 miles away, and even Walmart was a good thirty minute drive. And forget about IKEA. If you find yourself in need of a new Gles or some Kalas in rural Louisiana you'll just have to make do without.

While my school in DC certainly has more neighboring business establishments than in Louisiana, there's really no convenient way to quickly solve a folder shortage. We've got plenty of carry out food if that's what the situation requires, which is far more likely to be the case than an urgent need for horses, but that's about it. There are some wholesale markets across the street for fruit or cheap imported socks, and an industrial supply store across another street for those pressing exhaust fan emergencies in the third grade. While the neighborhood, sadly, cannot accommodate any of my teacher needs, there is one adjacent business that came in VERY handy yesterday.

Leaving school around 6 pm with some friends, on our way to meet up with some other friends, I found my left rear tire flat. As I was gearing up for a call to AAA for a tire change and tow, and trying to see if I could remember the steps in changing a tire myself, there it appeared, magically, out of the oblivion of familiar sights you never really notice. What my school's location does have going for it is a moderately sketchy 24-hour tire place literally next door. We walk by its drive-in entrance frequently with the kids on the way to the field for PE, and I have it mentally categorized as a minor nuisance to deal with, having to check both ways as we walk by to make sure no flat-tired cars are going to run over the children. But yesterday, Mac's Tire Service and its all-night glory was my savior and the epitome of ultimate convenience. I drove the quarter of a block on the flat from where I had parked into Mac's and was in and out in 15 minutes with a brand new tire. Thank you Florida Avenue. I had misjudged you.

Googly Eyes

Yes, I have them. I have googly eyes because in elementary school, you just never know when the need will arise for googly eyes. The eyes googly-watched me dig through a large tub of what we'll just call teacher miscellany. The search for the leftover science lesson sandpaper I knew I had led me through D batteries and wire--other science lesson remnants, Hotwheels cars, mini carabiners, magnet tape, and a bag full of white beans. There will come a day when I realize that the perfect supply for a the next day's lesson is--duh, golf pencils! Yes, I have them too. And if the perfect supply is not golf pencils but confetti, felt, plastic Easter eggs, or terra cotta markers, well I'll be prepared for that as well. The lesson that requires magnet tape and a Koosh ball--it's no problem for Pack Rat Teacher Lady. Beads? Check. Silver garland? In stock. The Googly Eye Tub also houses those little paper pockets that hold index cards, that plastic piece that connects a pair of two liter bottles to make a water tornado, some confetti and a bag of glass rocks.

Clearly, this tub is a dumping ground for leftover supplies. If there's even a slim chance I might ever some day need that item again, into the container it goes. There are even materials that I've never used for a lesson but which could possibly have some future purpose in the second grade. The tub is also in theory the most convenient craft store / hardware store / teacher supply store that's always open even when an idea strikes me the night before at 9:00 pm.

And so, the lessons we learn from this magical tub are a) never throw anything away, and b) if anyone has a googly eye / carabiner / sand paper emergency--I'm your gal.

The Drawer

Phew! My home office is CLEAN! All those piles of papers have been filed away, and the little bags of junk I didn't know what to do with have now been dealt with.

When I cleaned out my classroom at the end of the year, I also had a few little containers of junk I didn't know what to do with. One of which was The Drawer. The Drawer houses all manner of items I have taken away from children during the school day for one reason or another. The Drawer often provides temporary housing for action figures, oversized green plastic sunglasses, miscellaneous electronic amusements, and red and blue swirled rubber bouncy balls--objects that are so fun that backpacks or pockets never seem to have enough power of containment for them--they always find away to escape and make an appearance during writing. If there's already been a reminder about one of these funnest of objects, into The Drawer it goes for retrieval at dismissal. These are often remembered and claimed in a timely fashion, but seeing as I sure am not going to give enough thought to Melvin's super squishy stretchy ball to notice that it hasn't been around for a few days, The Drawer slowly accumulates the more forgettable toys.

In addition to an unofficial "No fart- and burp-noise machine" policy that I have, we also have an official "No candy" policy at the school. Lunchables, the pre-packed, lunch-in-a-box company, does not share this philosophy, though they do apparently subscribe to the creed of miniaturization. Anyone with a "fun size" chocolate bar or a baby bag of Skittles removes the candy from the Lunchable, leaves it on my desk, and sits back down to enjoy her miniature ham and miniature cheese or her tiny taco. Into The Drawer go the small Lunchables candies, nestled snugly between any other wayward sugary treats spotted around the classroom and the fart- and burp-noise machine. Our most frequent Lunchable eater one year would usually forget to retrieve her daily treat from The Drawer, and we amassed the equivalent of about a half dozen regular sized candy bars before sending it all home with her one day. Loading a child up with an armful of miniature Butterfingers and Reese's peanut butter cups seems an odd way to enforce a no candy policy.

During teacher appreciation week, when our class "adopted" one of the special ed teachers, I found out that she really liked peanut butter cups, and bought a pack of individually wrapped Reese's to dole out to her each day of the week, along with cards from the kids and tokens of our appreciation. As she unwrapped the final gift of the week with a crowd of children around her and found even more of the peanut butter cups at the bottom of the gift bag, Ms. Lesley exclaimed how much she loved Reese's. "They're from the Lunchables!" shouted one of the children. I had to clarify that we were not re-gifting confiscated candy from students' lunches, but that I had actually bought those peanut butter cups at the grocery store thank you very much.

At the end of the year, The Drawer still managed to have an assortment of unclaimed items--mostly candy. Below is a list of the junk food I cleaned out of The Drawer after the children had left for the summer.

-3 mini Butterfingers from Lunchables
-Bag of Doritos
-3 Airheads candies
-A lollipop
-A Fast Break candy bar


Oh, the dreaded annual filing day. It's the day over the summer when I file away all of the blank maps, reading passages, folders of math games, and poetry overheads that have somehow managed to not get put away. All year. Who has time to file these things? The filing process involves lots of little piles as I work my way through a huge stack of papers, and sort them according to subject, then take each pile over to the appropriate drawer for further sorting.

During this process, lots of papers wind up in the recycling pile and I feel lighter with each sheet that fills the bin. It is extremely liberating to be rid of so much paper! I just threw away a few stacks of tests from February that I thought I'd get around to grading at some point, that for the next several months just made me feel guilty every time I saw them. They're definitely not getting graded now!

As I sift through the endless mounds that will shortly stop cluttering the desk and floor, I experience the school year once again, but backwards. I just passed some Back to School Night agendas, so hopefully that means I'm near the end/beginning! I've also found several notes from kids detailing various infractions that fellow classmates committed over the course of the year.

Melissa wrote:
Dylan was Jumping one side of the cobit to the overside. From: Melissa

After considering for a minute what, exactly, the "cobit," was supposed to be, and knowing that we don't have any cabinets in our classroom, I figured out that she meant that Dylan was guilty of moving around from one side of the carpet to the otherside. Phew! Good thing she informed me of that. Even if I hadn't figured it out, though, I found a second note from Keisha in reference to Melissa's note.

Melissa note is SPellEd rong carpet other side
form KeIsha


I just woke up thinking about place value. It must be summer! My dreams from the past couple of weeks have shared a rather similar configuration of location, time, and lesson plan status.

-Second grade, first day of school, incomplete
-Middle school, first day of school, incomplete
-Second grade, before the first day of school, in progress

Come on! I should be dreaming about George Clooney spreading peanut butter on a cat or something!

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