With the beginning of a new school year (especially this one) comes the often unspoken worries and fears that accompany the unknown of a new grade, new classroom, new teacher, and new classmates. My first job as a classroom teacher is to quell these anxieties and begin to lay the groundwork for our class community, creating a welcoming, honest, judgment-free space where we trust and support one another.
My School Stinks! by Becky Scharnhorst with illustrations by Julia Patton, will be my entry point for these discussions this year. In this delightfully funny back-to-school story, Stuart’s school worries only increase when he discovers that the other students are REAL animals.
Told through a series of diary entries, readers follow Stuart’s changing emotions as his time at school continues and his relationships with his classmates begin to change.
As a class, we will identify Stuart’s feelings and investigate the causes behind them. Following this we will discuss the range of emotions students could feel at the beginning of the year. Students will be asked to look inward at their own first day of school feelings and if they would like, share them with a partner or the class.
Next up students will receive their very own beginning of the year diary. Emulating the structure of Stuart’s entries, students will have the daily opportunity to record their thoughts and feelings in their own journal. Entries will remain private, with no expectation of sharing them out with myself or the class. My goal is for students to feel safe and have a means to reflect on their feelings.
As a follow-up, I plan to use the structure of their diary entries to discuss letter writing. If all goes as planned, a shiny new mailbox will find its way to my desktop and students will have the opportunity to “send me” mail. Here they can have a safe outlet to express themselves and reach out to me with any comments, concerns, or information they need to share. This is perfect for those students who are reluctant to open up face to face. The novelty of the mailbox will encourage participation and the responses I return to the students will foster the trusting relationships I hope to build with each child.
Want to know more about the author, Becky Scharnhorst, and the inspiration behind her wonderful book, My School Stinks!? You can check out my interview with her here on The Backstory.
And if you are curious about some of the other books I will be sharing with my students in the first week of school, check out below.
That’s all for now. Next month I hope to have some student samples and pictures to share with you. Until then, best wishes to all the teachers who have recently returned or are about to return to the classroom. I hope you and your students have an incredible year!