A Unique First Week of School
Courtney Caldwell, Director of Teaching and Learning

By Courtney Caldwell, Director of Teaching and Learning

There is nothing like the first week of school: fresh school supplies, new clothes and uniform pieces, seeing people we’ve missed over the summer, new teachers and students and classes, and the feeling in the air that all is possible. And while this year is certainly unlike any of my other in my 34 first weeks of school, all of those excited back-to-school feelings and traditions still hold true. Our students and their families will come to campus this week to pick up art supplies, lab kits, textbooks and other items teachers determined essential. We will begin the year with Convocation and call each Raven’s name. We will begin classes and go over syllabi and jump into learning and learn new routines. And we can’t wait. After all, we’ve been planning for this all summer.

Not everyone knows how much teachers typically work in the summer. Most of us attend workshops, take classes and meet with one another to plan our courses. But this summer? Most of us worked more than we ever have to prepare for a school year unlike any we have experienced before.

June began with a bang when we spent two days with internationally-known education expert, Rick Wormeli. The lessons we learned from him inspired all of us to improve the way we assess our students and their learning. Many of us also spent all summer reading books like Grading for Equity, How to Be an Anti-Racist, and The Person You Mean to Be, which will change the way we teach and grade forever. We spent weeks redesigning our classes so we could teach even more effectively online and we learned new technology tools to help our students have even more consistency in their days and assignments. All of this added up to more than 4500 hours of combined teacher work time this summer.

In the midst of all this work to prepare for this year, and at the heart of every conversation we had this summer, the number one question teachers asked me when we met was, “how are we going to create relationships in this new way of learning?” Our students – knowing them, who they are, what makes them tick, what lights them on fire, what challenges them – will always be at the heart of everything we do with one another. And that has never been more important than it will be as we begin digital learning this fall.

So, while I wish more than anything that I could go back to campus and hug my colleagues and my students, I will not let that stop me from having an incredible school year. I’ll sharpen new pencils and open fresh packs of Post-Its (teachers really do love school supplies). I’ll wear a new shirt in red (my House color), I’ll wave through Zoom or Teams, I’ll meet my students in my new classes that I’m so excited to teach, and because we already know it will be a year like no other, I’ll dwell in all the possibilities this year has to offer. I hope all of you do, too.