On the First Day of School

I have a confession to make today. It won’t be popular with many of you, especially in the southern half of Illinois, but I want to get this off my chest…so here goes.

I’m a Cubs fan.

I hope you don’t think too much less of me. We actually have a support group that’s been getting together for 110 years. It meets…next year. And it’s been tough! Well, until recently. But growing up rooting for the lovable losers…well, there’s just something about being a Cubs fan that got me through all those rough seasons. It’s embodied in four magic words: “pitchers and catchers report.”

As a Cubs fan, when you hear those four words in February that signal the start of spring training, something courses through you. It’s this energy, this naive hope, this boundless optimism because you know that the records are reset. Everyone is 0-0. We haven’t lost a game yet. This year…this could be the year!

And I think, as a teacher, that my formative years growing up as a Cubs fan were invaluable to me as a teacher. You see, like the Cubs, teachers start every year undefeated. That parent who wouldn’t leave you alone? They’re bugging somebody else now. That terrible 6th hour class you had last year? Gone. This year’s class will be different!

This year can be anything you want it to be. You can start fresh, try something new, reinvent yourself. In what other profession do you ever get that chance–let alone every year? It’s a gift

I have a colleague who says that the best four things about teaching are the four walls of your classroom. When the bell rings and you shut the door, you can tune it all out and create whatever world you want to exist, 50 minutes at a time. And you get to share that world with your students, and show them all the possibilities that can be.

So whether you’re heading back to school tomorrow, or next week, or after Labor Day, and whether you’ve been teaching for three years or thirty, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on all the possibilities the new year brings. To “RE-imagine” your teaching practice, try new approaches, and strive to make your classroom a place full of wonder and joy and learning.

What kind of world will you create for your students?

I promise you things won’t turn out as perfect as you imagined. There will be tough days, and there will be setbacks, and there will be failure along the way.

But I also promise you that if you don’t imagine, and hope, and dream…well, you’ll never get better, and your classroom won’t be all that it could have been. So keep pushing forward. Try new approaches. Take a leap of faith; expect the best of your students. Challenge them, even when you’re not sure they can handle it. You might just be surprised.

After all, the Cubs won the World Series. Anything is possible.

Both the school year and the baseball season are long, and even the best of us need a break to refresh and recharge. For professional baseball players, it’s the All-Star break. For us, it’s professional learning that helps us reignite our passion, rethink our practice, and RE-imagine our profession. Join us October 20-21 in Bloomington-Normal, IL for the annual IATE fall conference and be inspired by great teachers across the state.  Guest speakers include NCTE President Doug Hesse, National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling, Illinois Teacher of the Year Brian Curtin, and educator and author Dave Stuart Jr. 

Remember to request your PD early–especially as schools tighten their belts in a time of uncertain funding.

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