(tasting lesson with some of the new children- food is a great indirect motivator for learning how to join and leave a small group lesson)
I inevitably get anxious at the beginning of new school years. I struggle with the uncertainty and feel a bit like a rusty teacher after the long vacation. The comfortable (if I am not romanticizing it) atmosphere that we ended our school year with undergoes a makeover- the new group of oldest children and the new children change the society every year.
To prepare, there are "rituals" that help me feel more ready for the change: Writing a letter to both new and returning children about how I am excited sharing the coming year with them, visiting the new children in their home, reading the chapter in my album about the first days in the classroom, and of course, setting up the environment.
At our school, only the new children come for the first 2 days of school. This gives me the opportunity to focus on them exclusively and make sure they get all of the introductory grace and courtesy lessons. I strip the classroom of materials and leave out plenty of transitional materials and just a few of the very basic and indestructible Montessori materials.
In those two days we try to prepare the new children enough to be able to function somewhat independently. We shorten the work period considerably and give lots of group lessons. On the second day of only new children, we focus on grace and courtesy such as not taking a material if you haven't had a lesson with it (in preparation for lots of other materials that "appear" on the shelf the following day, when the returning children arrive.)
Everything shifts once again with the return of the "old" children. A really nice thing is that since the old ones are used to a 3 hour work period, and are eager to be back at school, they really INJECT a surge of work force in the environment. I could feel this yesterday (it's our 4th day today) how the new children were able to work a little longer, and a little more carefully because of, I guess, the "energy" in the room.
Tomorrow will be the end of our first week of school. And by next week I will add a considerable amount of materials on the shelves for the "old" children to get back in gear from where they left off last school year.
It is great being in an environment that is so dynamic and changing, and to work in a field where things are in constant flux. Just when you think you've got the formula right, something or someone comes along and you have to modify it again. Observation, observation, observation. Flexibility. Enthusiasm. Love.