I’m Glad You Are Here

They were my first class.  They were first graders and they taught me to notice missing teeth and new shoes.  I remember my first day as their teacher.  I hoped that my students would welcome me, and I hoped that their parents would think that I was grown-up enough to teach their children. I was twenty-one.

It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my job to welcome my students–not their job to welcome me–and my job to assure parents, not the other way around.  Over the years the “first day welcome” has become more and more intentional.  First, it crept beyond the first weeks of September and then it leapt into October.   Now welcome is a way of life in Room 204.

I knew the power of welcome before I learned of the research that backed it up.  The research says that children need to belong, feel safe, and know joy to learn.   This can only happen in a place where children are seen, heard, and invited in.   I knew it before I learned it–that’s  how intuition works. Intuition alone doesn’t trump a textbook or a pacing chart or a lesson plan, but research can.

For three summers I have participated in either the Reading or Writing Institute at Columbia Teachers College with Lucy Calkins.  Lucy’s research puts words to what I know is true.  I know making sure every child has agency as a reader and writer is key to his or her autonomy as a learner and ultimate success as student.   I know it starts with an invitation:  “I have a book that is just right for you.”

My conversations with children work in a teeter totter balance of “Oh, look what you can already do!” with “Get ready, today I’m going to teach you something new.

We are building a community where everybody matters. We are building a common canon of folk tales and stories from many cultures, and with it, a language of literary allusion. We are building trust, so that we can take risks without risking shame. We are building a sense of common purpose in a world that is bigger than ourselves. We are building stamina as readers, writers, and problem solvers.  We are building an academic vocabulary that can deepen our understanding of all that we learn. And we don’t have time to waste.

We are learning to open our arms wide to the world.  It all starts in a doorway with an outstretched hand and it grows within a circle of trust. Teaching is a radical act of hospitality. “Welcome.” I smile and I tell the truth:  “I am glad you are here.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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10 Responses to I’m Glad You Are Here

  1. Jim Bennett says:

    Radical hospitality as a foundation for teaching—that’s a wonderful approach. What if we practiced that in our churches? I’d say that was in large part Jesus’ teaching. Too many churches/houses of worship have become “clubs”. Perhaps too many schools have as well–which makes it all the more important that public education be given more resources.

    Your posts are a joy to read—thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us!

  2. Terje says:

    Your voice in this post is welcoming. You clearly care about your students. I hope that you will have a wonderful year together.

  3. Tara says:

    We are building a community where everybody matters…that says it all, beginning with the invitation into the classroom, right?

  4. Laura LA says:

    Your post is a great reminder of how to approach each day, each situation. Welcome is a very important feeling.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love this …My conversations with children work in a teeter totter balance of “Oh, look what you can already do!” with “Get ready, today I’m going to teach you something new.” It is so positive and it is so full of energy…I love it and will be trying it when I confer tomorrow. xo

  6. It is my hope that all teachers speak to my daughter the way that you speak to your students. You honor them for what they know, who they are, and for who they will/can be. You’re a gem, Annie!

  7. Lori says:

    building common folk tales, beautiful

  8. Ramona says:

    I wanted to walk in and be welcomed into your classroom when I read your post! My favorite line: “Get ready, today I’m going to teach you something new.”

  9. Rachel Savoy says:

    I moved classrooms this year and it happened in such a rush right before school…. sitting down finally after an exhausting day I looked at the number above my door: 204. I immediately thought back to the time I spent with you at Fox and was excited to try and channel some of the Mrs. Campbell vibe. And I’m even teaching second grade, which is what you were teaching that year! 🙂

  10. Danielle Neiswender says:

    I just love your blog so much! Any chance you’d allow a future teacher from Michigan a skype/email interview for my Building Sustainable Communities class assignment? You’ve inspired me so much and I think that if I can be half the teacher you are to your kids, I’ll be heading in the right direction!

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