Starting Off on the Right Foot
Here we are, the first week of school just finished, and as I reflect upon the first 4 days, I can’t help but want to share my excitement! If you’ve been following my journey through my blog or Twitter, you know that I’m in a very unique situation in that I am part of an amazing staff who is opening up a new school: École Sage Creek School. We’ve been very busy during the month of August trying to get everything set up to welcome our students and their families for opening day conferences, which were held last Tuesday and Wednesday, with Thursday being the first day of school.
With many custodial staff from all different schools within the division who worked extremely long hours during the long weekend, the staff walked into the building on Tuesday and jaws dropped. So much had been done since I had left the school the Friday before, and the school really looked absolutely beautiful. Furniture in the common areas was set up, everything had been cleaned, tools and leftover materials from the trades were gone, etc. Walking into the school felt very inviting and I knew that this feeling would transfer over to the students and their families when they came, too. The staff gathered Tuesday morning for our first staff meeting, which was jam-packed with a ton of information. We were reminded that although our new school is stunning and has many amazing features, what makes it a great place is the people. Harry Bell, our vice-principal, said it best when he said that it was now “time to put the soul into the building” by welcoming our students! The moment we had all been waiting for, for what seemed like an eternity, was finally here.
We are very lucky in the Louis Riel School Division because the first two days of school are dedicated to having opening day conferences where we get to meet with all of our students and their families, one on one. We understand that building relationships is at the core of what we do, so having these conferences enables us to start the year on the right foot. Although these conferences offer an opportunity to explain routines, expectations and philosophies with parents and students, what is most important during this time is to make a connection and start building those important relationships with all of the students and their families. We want students and parents to walk away feeling good about the year to come, which can only happen if they see that we are loving and caring people who will support and encourage their children.
Having these conferences also comes with a lot of pressure; we only get one chance to make a good first impression! This year, given that this is a brand new school, with a brand new staff, and students coming from different schools, I was fully expecting to feel even more pressure to prove myself to parents. None of them knew me from having taught their older children. None of them had seen me walking to halls. None of them had met me at previous school event. None of them had heard me present about things going on in my classroom at PAC meetings. But, I was so wrong, and here’s why…
Starting a new school, we knew how important beginning to build our school culture was even before the first day of school. We, therefor, put a few things into place to begin the process over the summer. Here are just two of the many important things that we did:
- Welcome letters were sent home to students at the end of June. Teachers took the time to tell their future students a little bit about themselves, what they believe and what students could expect in the year to come. In this letter, teachers also gave their contact information, and shared their Twitter handle and/or blogs so that the families could connect and learn more about them over the summer.
- The #SageCreekLRSD #SummerSelfieBingo was born, which invited staff and families to participate by tweeting selfies of activities they did over the summer. (learn more about it here). This was an absolutely amazing way for everyone to connect and build incredible relationships. Many staff members commented that when the time came for us to start setting up our classrooms in August, we already knew one another so much more because of the sharing that had been happening through the bingo. Parents also shared that the bingo (as well as the tweets to the school hashtag) helped to lessen some of the anxiety that students felt about starting in a new school, with a new staff. (Check out what I mean by looking at this amazing tweet by grade 2/3 teacher, Lisa Bunkowsky)
I truly feel that the welcome letters, the school hashtag, and the summer selfie bingo really helped to start creating an amazing school culture while building relationships with the students, parents, and the staff. This made the opening day conferences a place where we could continue to build on those relationships, instead of starting them from scratch. I didn’t feel like I had to prove myself to the parents because I felt as though they already knew what I stood for, what kind of teacher I am, and that I absolutely love what I do. Many parents and students had reached out to me over the summer (by e-mail, through Twitter and my blog) so continuing to build on our relationships came effortlessly. We definitely started the year off on the right foot and I can’t wait to continue sharing our journey as we navigate these new waters at École Sage Creek School!
Wishing everyone a happy 2017-2018 school year filled with the most amazing learning adventures!