If you were to pop in to Calvin Christian School sometime in the last two weeks of August, you would see an entire team of teachers setting up their classrooms for a brand new teaching year. Bulletin boards go up, new pencils are sharpened, name tags go on desks, welcome signs are posted outside of the classroom door, and the list goes on. It’s an exciting time, readying for the students we will soon meet.
In my case, I teach grade one, and when I get my class list in the mail I am excited to see who I will be sharing the next year with. I recognize some of the names, but many of them are unknown. I write names on lots of things and as I do, I wonder who these little people are. At this point they are just names, but I know that soon they will have faces and personalities. I know that they are all individuals known by their Creator, loved in their families, and coming to my class. When they enter the classroom on the first day, some of them are eager and ready to take on the learning challenges coming their way. Others aren’t so sure and there can be serious butterflies. (I must confess that teachers have serious butterflies too.) Who are these students? How will we become a class community?
I decided many years ago to invite parents to visit our class early in the year to share with us the special story of their sons and daughters. After all, who but God and parents know the children best? I and the classmates wanted to get to know them too. I send out invitations with suggestions as to what to share and ask parents to bring along some photos and stories about their child. We learn the meaning of names, important things about the family, significant events, involvement in sports, dance, music, etc., jobs at home, family traditions, favourites, pets and whatever is deemed worthy of sharing. The class eagerly anticipates these visits. “Is anybody coming today?” is a usual question. We have some time for interacting with questions, and gradually the students learn to ask good questions about the child in the seat of honour rather than turning the focus back to themselves. We practice good listening and questioning skills. At the end of the visit we sing a song: God made only one of me. There’s no one quite the same. I’m a very special person with a very special name. We then pray together, thanking God for this friend and asking for a blessing on the year. Photos are hung up for a couple of weeks following the visit. It’s fun to have another look.
I enjoy finding out more about the children in my care early in the year. Another blessing is the opportunity to meet one or both parents and to find out who loves them at the other end of the day. I have had an overwhelmingly positive response to these visits, and parents do an amazing job of making it happen. In some cases it means rearranging work schedules or making younger sibling care arrangements. We all have stories, and stories need to be shared. A big thank you to all who have paid us a visit for your role as storyteller.
Miss Wierenga, Grade 1 teacher