"Together we'll soar!"

The first day of school, in my mind, is the most important day of the school year. You get one chance to make first impressions about who you are and what your community will be.

When I first learned this last year

, I started flipping my syllabus in order to build that community on the first day. I know spend my summer ruminating about what I can do to help my students understand the community of which they'll be a part.

On the first day, I want to create an experience that not only tells the students my vision for the year, but also helps them experience it right away. I want it to be something memorable. I want it to be able to hang in our room as a constant reminder of our vision to the year. And I want my students to have fun doing it.

So in an evening of insomnia this summer, my class theme finally came to me: "Together we'll soar!" As I thought about kites, I couldn't help but think of the metaphor they can be for our lives in my classroom. So this is what we did:

First, each student chose a fabric square. I found some clearance fabric that had different patterns that were meant to be colored. I encouraged them to color them in a way that represents who they are. Some students told about what they do for fun. Some shared about their goals for the year. Some explained their personalities. But no matter how the square started at the beginning of the period, each square ended unique because they're unique. In my classroom, individual gifts and passions should be celebrated. I love working in middle school because they're really starting to understand what their gifts and passions are. I love being a part of that self-discovery. The individual squares of the kites makes it easy to see how each student is unique.

After each student decorated them together, we gathered on the floor and they shared what their squares meant. This teaches my students that in my classroom we're about listening to one another, even if we're different. We can each learn from anyone else.

After they shared, I started to gather them together in a kite shape, and we began discussing various properties of kites. As it formed, we talked about how larger surface areas allow the kites to soar higher. Similarly, it's important for us to work together to really soar. Yeah, we each have different gifts and passions, but if we work together and help others out, we'll all be able to fly.

And then I asked what's on the back of a kite to keep it's shape. I held up two sticks, and they quickly realized it was in the sign of a cross. In our classroom, faith is an integral part of who we are and why we do what we do. Even more, we believe that it's necessary to our foundation. The kite allowed us to talk about how first and foremost, we need to lean on God for the support of what we do. It's there that we find our fuel and support to create and to be in relationship with others. Now that the kites are on the wall and I'm reflecting, I like the fact that you can't see that foundation, but it's still there. Is it not the same in our lives? When we interact with people on a daily basis they see us. However, (hopefully) if we are leaning on that foundation, they'll see the effects of our relationship with God, even if they can't see God for themselves.

So now these kites hang in our classroom. It serves as a great reminder to me and to my students about our goal for this year. Yes, it's still important that we learn English or math, but it's even more important that we learn to work together and make each other soar. I'm excited to see where the wind of this year brings us!