Nobody cried today. Nobody threw up. There was some flopping and twitching as they got their summer vacationed bodies back into sitting-in-their-seats-shape. I make a big show on the first day of class of how many days we have to learn everything there is to learn in fourth grade. I tell my freshly minted fourth graders that we have only one hundred and eighty days to gain clarity on fractions. We have only one hundred and eighty one days to fully comprehend narrative writing, while at the same time digesting some thirty different stories with a variety of different voices and styles. There will be weekly tests and quizzes, and more vocabulary and spelling than I can begin to describe in just one day.
Because the truth is, all of that really has to take place in one hundred and seventy-nine days. All the kids in my room had a pretty good sense that their first day was going to be all about paperwork. We send home a stack of paper to be read, signed and returned by their caregivers. I tell the kids that it is the one day that they get to watch their parents do homework. I know that when I get home, I will have the same stack of paper sitting on my kitchen table awaiting my signature. My son's teacher has announced that "regular homework packets" would start coming home in the third week of school.
I told my students that they wouldn't be so lucky. Once the train leaves the station, they can count on a steady stream of homework that doesn't let up until June. I brought math tests home on my first night to grade. It's a marathon, and we hit the ground running. Maybe this is the year we finish all our work before time runs out. Maybe then we'll have a couple weeks at the end of the year for quiet reflection. But for now, the race is on. See you at Thanksgiving.