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Setting the Tone for the School Year

For most of my teaching career I was on a 12 month contract because I was also the technology coordinator. That meant I was in the school building most of the summer. So for me the first day of school meant one thing - students! Being in a school that is empty of students can be a depressing time. The building is too quiet. The interactions are all with adults. Now there is nothing wrong with adults and I was always fortunate to work with talented, committed and interesting faculty and administration people. But there is nothing like interaction with students. When students show up for that first school day the energy is palpable. It is rejuvenating. It is exciting. For me there is nothing quite like it.

As a teacher the first day of school is a chance to set a tone for the year. I don't just mean the laying out of rules (though that is especially important in lab-based classes) and outlining the curriculum for the year but establishing a feeling of collaboration - a goal of learning together. I get excited about what I am teaching and I want to share that excitement. I see each new school year as ripe with opportunity for teacher as well as students to learn new things, to do interesting things, and to create new partnerships for learning. That is the tone I always tried to set for the school year. I'm not sure I always succeeded but that was always the goal.

This year I don't have classrooms of my own. I will likely not even be in a school on their first day. I'm on a number of advisory boards for computer programming/computer science programs at high schools near me and the meeting invitations are already coming in. So I know I will get some first day of school reports very soon but it is not like being there. I am seriously thinking about dropping in on some teachers I know just for the experience. We'll see about that. But over all I have a personal goal to visit more classrooms this year. If I can help out in a classroom that is great. Speaking to students is a very grounding experience and one I really believe helps the speaker as much as the listeners.

My wife and son are both teachers and are deep in the throes of preparing for the start of their school year. While they are enjoying the last of their summer vacations they are not facing the start of school with dread but with anticipation. I have to say that I am excited about and anticipating the new school year as well. A lot of teachers I work with made plans to learn new things over the summer and I look forward to hearing (and helping where I can) how those new things work when introduced to the classroom and students. The preparation is nearly complete. The planting is about to start. What sort of growth will the school year bring?

Alfred Thompson
Academic Relations Manage, Microsoft Corporation

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