My first few days are full of hope and nervous excitement. I wake up at 7 each morning and rush to school. I unpack boxes upon boxes. I move furniture. I move furniture back. I search through closets and file cabinets. Every new discovery is full of promise. I find math sets, glue sticks, stickers, scissors, games, books, calendars. I can imagine using each item in my lessons. I meet many of the other teachers, and learn how to make orders and fill out forms.
The days blur together. I wake up early and go to bed late. For the first time in my life being at work excites me. Before I know it the first day of school is here. I am proud of my classroom as I survey it before my students arrive. It would be perfect if I only had enough desks, but I have made due with the ones I have, fashioning them into makeshift tables. I have thought through everything from my reading corner with the bookshelves to my communal pencil boxes.
An assembly begins the first day of the school year. As I walk in I am overwhelmed. Tiny bodies blur past me. Members of the community sit along the walls of the gym. Nervous, I stick close to the other teachers. The assembly is a new experience; I have never been to one quite like it. Everything is said in English, French, and Inuktitut. This makes it significantly longer, but is an important aspect of the identity of the school that teaches classes in each of the three languages.
The classes are now being announced. I wait on the balls of my feet for my name to be called. I know that at that point all eyes will be on me. I watch as each of the teachers shakes the hand of each of their students. Should I do that too? I find the idea strange when I picture myself shaking students hands as they each walk up to me. I worry that I might miss greeting one of them. I hear my name and am brought back into the gym. I walk to the center of the gym, very much on auto pilot as my mind races.
They begin to call my students. I smile and greet each one, but I do not shake their hands. This feels more me. The last name is called, nine out of ten students, not bad. We begin our walk to the classroom. Once out of the gym I stop my class and outline my rules for walking in the hall. I am proud of myself for this, and I am proud of my students for immediately living up to my expectations. They quietly walk single file.
I open the door to our classroom and each student finds the seat that I have labeled with their name on a removable sticky note. Soon we will design name tags of our own. I tell them all about myself, and ask them to write me a letter about themselves. I get a few pictures and sentences. By the time we have finished the activities I had planned, they are the last class to leave the school.
I have learned a lot about my new class in only a few hours, but I will learn much more in the days to come. I have already learned that most of my planning is far beyond them. For some reason I failed to plan for the fact that they are all still learning English. Another late night lies ahead of me as I re-plan my next few days.
Stay tuned for my next installment of Isolation.