One of my favourite things about teaching is the connection I get to make with people.  I love connecting with my students and other staff in the building and I especially love doing so when we have something in common.  The first few weeks of school are all about building connections and finding those common threads among us, but because I am still on maternity leave for two more months, I am missing the back to school excitement this year.

This school year is a bit odd for me, not only because of the late start I’ll be having, but also because I’m working in two different grades at two different schools (by choice). Thankfully, this means I have two fantastic teaching partners (and Meaghan, who is covering for me in one class until I come back!) who have allowed me to come into our respective classrooms to meet our students.  Today I was able to meet my grade 8s.  My friend, and grade 8 teaching partner, Leah, has started our year with a BANG; it was great to get into the classroom today to see some faces and hear some voices.

A few days ago I realized that by the time I get back to work I will have been off for about 17 months (thank you, teacher strike and unexpected pregnancy issues).  This means I haven’t really taught in 17 months.  I almost cried when I realized this while thinking, “Do I even know what I’m doing anymore!?”  I’ll admit, going into my classroom today was kind of scary.  The drive to school had me asking all kinds of questions, like: What do I do?  What do I say?  Am I wearing the right clothes?  Do I look like a cool teacher?  WILL THEY LIKE ME!?  Clearly, I have confidence issues.  But I think we all do at the start of the school year, teachers and students alike.  This is one common connection!

Our first day of school!
Our first day of school!

The piece I’m leaving out here is that I brought Charlee with me and, just like a puppy, she had the room charmed in two seconds flat.  What I didn’t really anticipate was how bringing Charlee in would establish immediate connections with some of my grade 8 students.  Within fifteen minutes we were connected through our similarities: babies, nieces, nephews, siblings, NICU stays, gymnastics, babysitting, art…all these topics came up in my short classroom visit, and nearly every student had something to say, a story to tell, or simply wanted to touch Charlee’s hand (she happily obliged).

While this was all going on Leah tried to continue on with the lesson I had ambushed – a discussion about self-regulation.  She mentioned how holding a baby close to one’s own body could help some people self-regulate, or calm down.  As I left our grade 8 classroom, with Charlee strapped in the carrier facing heart to heart, I thought, “Well, Charlee girl, you’ve done it again, you little, wise teacher”.  Calm.  Connected.  Content.

It’s going to be a great year.

How have you connected with your new students this week?  Let us know in the comments!

Karley