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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Everyone has experienced “first day of school” jitters at one time or another. With each new school year, there are new challenges to face; as well, there are new hurdles to overcome. Those challenges, coupled with the uncertainty of a new social setting, are enough to give anyone the “first day” blues.

Books can serve as excellent icebreakers. They inspire lessons. They help people connect on some level, and they are great for stimulating the thought process. Here’s the best part: you do not always need to use a lengthy book and/or story to make an impact on learning. A great example of this, is a book by Julie Danneberg entitled: First Day Jitters. Although this picture book is appropriate for students who are independently reading in between a 2.0 or 3.0 reading level, the book’s theme is quite universal.

In the story, Mr. Hartwell is trying to coax Sarah out of bed. However, Sarah is adamant about not going to school because it’s the first day; and, she is jittery. In the beginning of the story, the two banter back and forth until Mr. Hartwell decides to establish firm rules. He states, “Sarah Jane Hartwell, I’m not playing this silly game one second longer. I’ll see you downstairs in five minutes.” Well, of course Sarah complies and then it’s off to school with a lunchbox in tow. Once at school, Sarah is greeted by the principal who recognizes that she is a little nervous. As the students pile into the schoolhouse, the principal reassures Sarah that it’s okay to be nervous. Sarah is escorted to her new class and given a personal introduction by her principal. The twist here is, although the author is craftily misleading, Sarah is not a student. She is the teacher.

Each time I have read this story, the ending always garner a reaction from students. Some find it funny; while others find it to be utterly unbelievable. Either way, I use this story to discuss making transitions into new environments. This later leads into a discussion about procedures and protocols that can be used to make difficult transitions easier. If you are not a didactic instructor, you would appreciate how this book’s theme creates “teachable moments” where students can share their thoughts and opinions about creating a classroom environment that is welcoming. Some of my best classroom norms (not rules) have come from discussions like these. As Always, happy teaching!

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