I spent several days setting up and cleaning my classroom this week. One of the final tasks that I did was to go through my incoming students' blue writing folders. These folders follow each student as they move through our school district. It is filled with work samples and mainly their writing. It takes all of my energy not to pour over them and look through each one, but I reserve that for later on as an activity that allows me to get to know who I have with me in our classroom. But first, I must simply compare the folders I have been given to my class lists to determine who I am missing and which folders I have that do not belong.
While this can be a mundane activity, I truly enjoy it because it is the first time that I see everyone's name (116 to be exact!). As I cross off names and place folders into homeroom piles, I get my first glimpse of the group of 7th graders who will read, write, talk and learn with me this coming year. I get excited when I see first names that mirror another person in my life. This year, I have a Samantha, which is also my youngest daughter's name. I also have a Molly, which is my own first name. But it is actually the surnames that get me excited the most.
I have always enjoyed the moment when I realize that a new student is the sibling of one of my former students. That they may have been told things about me (good or bad) puts my mind at ease for some reason. And while I realize that they may not have the same exact experience in my room as their brother or sister did, I relish the fact that even though I have not met this person, we already have a connection.
I come from a big family. I have five brothers and one sister. I am the sixth out of seven children, so I know that feeling of having a teacher that a sibling of mine had already had. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the teachers who in having me as a student were introduced to the Hull family for the first time. (Hull is my maiden name.) I was used to the look I would receive on the first day when the teacher would call my name for the first time, would look up and smile and say, "Oh, I had all of your brothers..." or something to that effect. It usually didn't bother me, but I always had to prove myself in those first few days so that they got to know what kind of Hull I was. My brother Andy was only a year ahead of me and was always getting into trouble. I tried hard to prove myself that while we shared the same last name, that was where our similarities ended.
So when I peruse my new list of students, I look forward to taking attendance on that first day. Asking if they are related to so-and-so, so that I know to make a special effort to get to know 'them' beyond who they are siblings with. I am sure my teachers didn't hold any prejudice against me because of who my brothers and sister were, but I felt a pressure as a kid to demonstrate what set me a part from them. As a teacher, I want to make sure that my students know that I am interested in who they are and that the fact that we already sort of know each other is pretty cool.
As these final days of summer wan, I am so looking forward to the first day of school. But for now, I will relish these last two days of freedom. All five of my brothers and my sister are in town. We are getting together today...the first time in two years since distance keeps some of us away for too long. I know that we will probably reminisce about our days in school together. Remembering funny stories, good friends and, of course, the teachers we all shared through the years.