Taken in 2016, this teacher selfie (or "teachie") of Ray Suchow and new teacher Katrina Bruin spawned an annual tradition that Suchow upholds on the first day of each school year. Bruin now teaches at Mary Butterworth School in Edmonton.
The first day of school! There are few things in a teacher’s vocabulary, and in a teacher’s reality, that bring such a breathless rush of excitement, anxiety, anticipation, and yes, perhaps even a bit of fear. On the one hand, you’re out of time, since the past two weeks have been an ever-increasing fevered rush of meetings, planning, materials preparation and room decorating. Even the veterans, with their decades of experience, haven’t been completely immune to the clock ticking away. They too have been seen walking with haste (but a confident and measured haste to be sure!) to the photocopier to pick up the latest version of their perfected lesson plans. On the other hand, though, you’re also ready. It’s time! For, in those first few golden hours, as an entire new year of learning and growth begins — whether with your homeroom or with the first of the half-dozen or more classes you’ll be guiding — there’s that indefinable eagerness and hunger inside of us that needs to be let out, so let’s get this year gong already!
I’d like to pass on a new first-day ritual that I happily discovered one day a few years ago and have repeated every year since. It takes just a few seconds, but the rewards are many.
On that day, my veteran confidence and assuredness included a dash of inspiration: why not take some first day pictures of my colleagues, especially those who were new to our school? Why not indeed! And so, 15 minutes before first-day classes started — yes, you can imagine how much free time most of us had at that point — I was able to visit and gather seven first-day selfies. Teachies, I call them.
The bright faces, resplendent with tans, replenishment and first-day eagerness, were so full of joy that it promised to be a great year. It also made a great post later in the day, since yes, teachers can be happy and engage with social media too!
Perhaps the best teachie I’ve ever taken was the very first one. On that day, as inspiration struck, the first classroom I visited belonged to one of our new teachers. I thought it would be wonderful to capture a picture of a teacher new to our school on her “first day” with us. As she confidently moved about her room preparing for class, she agreed to a quick picture, and onward I went to gather as many as I could.
Later in the day, to my surprise, I discovered that it wasn’t just her first day with us. It was something far more special. I had captured not just the joy of her first day of teaching at a new school, but the delight of her first day of teaching — ever! I’m happy to say that priceless picture became a defining moment of her career, and the beginning of a wonderful friendship too.
So, on the first day of class this year, see if you can take a teachie, or as many as you can, of your dear friends and colleagues, and put them in a place where you can see them for inspiration and camaraderie throughout the year. Trust me, in the depths of November or February, or when you’ve had one of “those” days and are finding it hard to love your students and your marking like you did back in September, a quick glance at the happy, confident energy of those first-day images will lift you up, especially if they include a new friend too.
Also, after a few years, you’ll realize you’ve captured priceless mementoes of the rarest and most fleeting of teaching moments: that swift, wonderful, breathless rush into the promise of a brand new school year.
I wish you all the best in 2019/20. Click! ❚
Ray Suchow teaches computers, religious studies and information processing at Christ the King School in Leduc.