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This is not just another school year. Once a year, as we near the start of the traditional undergraduate fall semester at Concordia University Wisconsin, a group of us meets for Administrative Council. This group meets monthly to discuss items that are important for the university and to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. But this first meeting has a special purpose. As we take turns going around the room to share updates, President Ferry asks us to focus our comments on that which is most important for others to know as we get ready for the traditional undergraduates to join us.
Yet, as we finish up, he also reminds us of the same thing every year, something that is definitely worth remembering. He reminds us that this is not just another year. While some of us have been doing this education thing for decades and the tasks of the new year might be rather familiar to us, that is not the case for many of the students who will be coming into our building. For them, especially those new students, this is an important first in their lives.
This applies to every level of school. As the new school year begins, there are going to be countless new faces. These students don’t know what to expect. They might not know many or any people. They are likely arriving with a measure of anxiety, excitement, curiosity, or fear—or a combination of these and others. For those new students, this is not just another year. This is the first time. In fact, this is true even for returning students. For the vast majority of students, this is their first time in this grade, with this group of students, and with a particular teacher.
As such, this is also a time of first impressions. While teachers get used to the start of the school year and the many associated traditions, it becomes important for us to view this day from the students’ perspective. How can we make this a great first experience? How can we give them the best and warmest welcome into this new Christian learning community? How we can make a positive and lasting impression, getting their school year off to a great start?
What kind of impression will you and your school make on students that first day, that first week? As a way to prepare, consider this simple activity. Create a list of the top ten things you want students to know and experience during their first week at school. What do you want them to know about the school? What do you want them to feel and be thinking as they leave school after that first day? What do you want them to know about you, about your commitment to them and their education? What do you want them to know about God and His Word? Once you make that list, the next step is to brainstorm ways to make those things a reality for each and every student who steps into your school or classroom. This groundwork will set the stage for much of what is to come.
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