Welcome Week

At the beginning of September, teachers were busily preparing classrooms, students were nervously awaiting the start of classes, and teachers and students alike were lamenting the fact that summer was coming to an end. I’m sure if you take a moment to think back on your many first days of school, you’ll stir up memories of excitement, nervousness, fear, and a host of other emotions.

My most traumatizing first day happened at the start of first grade. My family had just moved to San Diego and I was starting in a brand new school. Like a studious and punctual child should, I arrived early in the morning, well before the start of school. As I entered Painted Rock Elementary, I was in awe at the huge playground that stood before me. After being instructed to set my lunch box at the front of our classroom lineup area, I took off to explore my new domain. For several minutes, I explored every inch of the playground, even venturing into the far reaches of the soccer field. Suddenly I stopped and realized that I couldn’t hear the sounds of other students any more. I turned around and they were all gone! Panic. I ran the back across the soccer field as quickly as I could, past the handball courts, across the blacktop, and back to my classroom lineup area. But when I got there, I saw no one. The absolute worst thing of all, my lunchbox was missing!!!

Now, I don’t remember if I broke down crying right then and there or if I somehow had the wherewithal to track down an adult and tell them my problem. But, eventually, someone rescued me, I found my class, and I even found my lunch box. The day turned out all right. But, those first few harrowing minutes have been etched in my mind ever since.

Fortunately since then, my first days of school have been a bit less traumatic. Last year, our first year at Alliance and my first as a teacher, probably ranks up there, but even that turned out all right. This year, I felt like a true veteran. I was no longer nervous about the first day of classes, what I would say, or how the students would react to me. I knew what to expect and I was comfortable with my surroundings. But, the same can’t be said for students who were arriving at Alliance for the first time.

In previous years, there’d be a brief opening assembly and then classes would begin. In one fell swoop, students would be thrust right from the joy of summer into lectures, homework, and all the other joys of a typical school day. But this year, the administration decided to give students a softer start to the year. Rather than a quick shove into the classroom, the first 3 days would be filled with games, assemblies, competitions, chapel, music and short (20-minute) classes all in an effort to get students interacting with each other and with their teachers in a more personal way.

As a teacher, you can’t accomplish a lot in 20 minutes, so I just got to know my students a little bit. Other teachers did the same and in the end, Welcome Week was a huge success. At Alliance, we care a great deal about relationships and Welcome Week gave us all a great opportunity to start the year on the right foot.

Here are a few photos (along with my commentary) from the week:

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Students participated in a tug-o-war tournament. Unsurprisingly, the seniors won!

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Even the faculty joined in the fun during a final showdown against the seniors. They lost. Yet another reason I don’t mind being the photographer…

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We had chapel at one of the neighboring churches.

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For worship, we got a group of faculty musicians together who really knew how to rock. I played bass and we all had a great time worshiping with the students. This photo is obviously taken before we played.

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There was even a faculty vs. student soccer game. The faculty had a definite size advantage.

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Each of the teams had to come up with their own unique dance to perform in front of the rest of the school. Some of them were quite good.

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One of the students (who’s quite a character and a student in my AP Computer Science class) had some great dance moves that surprised everyone.

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And finally, some students REALLY got into the team competition.

Now four weeks into school, I can say that the tone set during Welcome Week has continued to last. Hopefully it’ll remain throughout the rest of the year.

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doug September 27, 2013 Ecuador