Every Day Is a New Day

I don’t know how many people have jobs with built-in opportunities for do-overs. I teach school, therefore, this past Monday was a new beginning for me—in so many ways.

On my first day of school, I opted for the stairs vs. the elevator, from the lower level of the parking garage to my fourth-floor classroom. 71 steps from the garage to the second floor, 98 to the third floor, 125 to the fourth floor. But who’s counting?

One thing I’ve noticed about my co-workers who take the stairs—they’re fit. What if the stairs are their not-so-secret secret? Game on, Stairs. Game on.

Students at the performing and visual arts high school started the day in their art areas—theater, dance, instrumental, vocal, creative writing, or visual arts. Academic teachers, like me, joined one of the art areas for crowd control, so I went to the theater department. Theater, however, had everything under control, so I simply stood by in awe.

The senior thespians, thirty or so, stood center stage, one by one, in the Black Box Theater. Each offered their advice to the underclassmen, and their words were sheer power. “Be kind and easy to work with. It will open doors for you.” And so many more I can’t recount, but what I heard set the tone for my day.

And my students—each class period—were quite possibly the loveliest ever in my twenty-two new beginnings. No one complained about sitting in alphabetical order, which is my strategy for memorizing 192 new names. They folded printer paper into thirds like a brochure and wrote their name on one side where I could see and call on them. On the inside, they wrote a goal for themselves before they graduate and one piece of advice for me. Then, they worked together on a poem puzzle, fill-in-the-blank with cut-out pieces of words and phrases. (By the way, not my original idea. I borrowed the lesson from a generous giver found here.)  I had kids who pulled it off. Here’s the key to the puzzle:

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Students annotated the text, and then we discussed the importance of certain words and phrases and clauses. They liked Maggie Smith’s poem and the freedom to say “shithole.”

“Good,” I said. “But what’s this poem about?”  

“It’s about a mother protecting her child from the dark side of life,” they said.

“Yes,” I said, “but what’s it really about?”

“It ends on a note of hope,” they said. “It’s about the duality of life…She believes her child can make the world beautiful—We can all make life more beautiful.”

And like that, my students analyzed poetry on Day One.

“And we all bring our own experiences to our reading,” I said. “Could the speaker be a teacher? Could her children be students? Life is short and half terrible, but we have the power, especially as artists, to make it beautiful.”

At the end of my school day, I read their advice to me. One said, “Just love us. We love you already.” My heart burst a bit, broke a bit, and I breathed a prayer of gratitude. From my classroom, I walked down the hallway to the stairwell, took six flights down to the parking garage, and hopped in my car to drive home—to wait for another brand-new day.

60 thoughts on “Every Day Is a New Day

  1. Have a great school year! I applaud your love of teaching and your relationships that you establish with your students. May you always look forward to the beginning of each school year. I taught for almost forty years, in twelve different school systems because of moving with my military husband. When the job became a job instead of enjoyable, I retired, but not because of the students. The administration was not supportive and I couldn’t carry the load alone. Best wishes for a wonderful year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Forty years! That’s amazing! If I could walk into the classroom without grading anything, I might make it to forty. But I also see myself retiring and teaching part time. Thanks so much for the kind wishes, Vickie!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was just talking to some colleagues today, and stated that it would be amazing if we didn’t have to add grading to what we’re doing already. If we could teach and build relationships….but, I’m not sure then how we could measure progress. Maybe there’s a better way 🙂

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    1. Once I make it to the second floor, I have options for three other stairwells, each with art. Plus, by the second floor, I need to take a lap or at least a walk down the hallway before the next set of stairs.

      Thanks, Priscilla! The puzzle forced kids to think about the words out of context, then in context. Wish I could take credit for the idea.

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  2. What a lovely first day back, Crystal. Thanks for sharing. Reading this was a great start to my day and a timely reminder to me as both a writer and teacher.

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  3. A great hopeful post Crystal about the ability of people to change. Sounds like you are going to have a great teaching year, making your students think. Happy Thursday. Allan

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  4. Inspiring. Crystal. Adding an appreciation to the others’.

    Inspired too, the school placing artwork at each landing. It invigorates the stair-takers. More than just a coincidence, the paintings reward effort. One of many incentives, actually. Among them, a more relaxed, contemplative pace, the exercise – obviously. Breathing room (amidst huffing and puffing, of course) encouraging genuine interactions. None of the elevator’s restrictive, awkward confines.

    Hey, whatever it takes. Each morning I too climb the stairs to the fourth-floor office. Plus, the walk in from the parking garage. Some effort required. Automatic fitness began to waver thirty years ago. Now it demands constant attention.

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  5. Happy first day! I started my 22nd as well on Monday. I’m already impressed by my students, and it’s going to be a great year. What a wonderful way to start the year with this poem. It’s sounds like you have some precious ones in your classes! ❤️

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  6. Crystal, what a lovely post, with such important reminders (lessons) for each of us, not just your students. I also used to have my students fold a piece of paper and write their name on it so I could call on them easily and get to know them sooner. But I wish I had thought of asking them to consider their goal by graduation and a piece of advice for me. That is brilliant. Have a rewarding year, filled with more fun!

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    1. Oh, thank you, Jane. The goal and advice were a suggestion from the teacher, whose lesson I found on WordPress. But it was a fun way to get to know them. Well-wishes always appreciated! Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Congrats on a successful and fulfilling first day, Crystal. The student who said, “Just love us. We love you already” is wise beyond their years. This reminds me of a quote, which I will quote now, of course. 😊

    “No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our youth what they should be. Nor all the books on all the shelves. It’s what the teachers are themselves.” I don’t know who first said this, but I heard it quoted by coach John Wooden.

    Teach on, Sister!

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  8. Clearly you are a wonderful teacher, and I know that you and your students will have a great school year. It will be interesting to teach students who are focused on the arts. Creativity is so important! This former teacher had tears well up at the student’s advice. It will be a good year!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your first day of school!.. hope the rest of the year is just as wonderful as the first day, each day being a new adventure!1.. the fact that the students think so highly of you gives testimony of how wonderful a teacher you are!… “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” (Kahlil Gibran ) and you do that!.. 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

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  10. Beholding the whole experience! These students are teaching me. Have a great week Crystal. In my past years of teaching, I’ve never worked in a building with more than two floors, but the stairs are a blessing for extra movement.

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    1. Last year, I made excuses about the stairs—like, I don’t want to sweat before my day starts, or, I’m running late, I don’t have time. In reality, I don’t sweat that much, and often, I had to wait for the elevator. The stairs probably take five minutes. Besides, if the kids do it, I should, too.

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  11. I loved this so much. Made my heart ache a little for that first day, new students, routines, and lesson plans! Love the ice breaker you gifted them with and the note, “we love you,” the topping on the cake! Best of luck this year Crystal. Looks like your legs are going to be fabulous! Hugs, C

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    1. I’m wondering how a cyclists legs must look—then suddenly I remember how comparison is the thief of joy. So, I’m visualizing my last-year legs in comparison to my this-year legs. Just three-weeks into the year, I feel pretty good. I can’t imagine thirty-three more.

      Liked by 1 person

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