How To Begin? (The Opening Scribbles of a School Year…)


Foment and tumult; a new year always means new people (and ideas) coming together in unique combination. We walk along the razor’s edge of excitement and anxiety. Patricia Holland, a gifted English teacher at Tamalpais High School for over three decades, once told me that she always got nervous for Day One. Being “experienced” doesn’t somehow inoculate us against being nervous – thankfully!

This is my first year as principal after eight and a half as assistant principal. Many things about my work remain the same; many things are different! From late June until today I have traipsed along the edge of excited/anxious each day. The question bubbling in my subconscious ceaselessly:

How to begin? 

What experiences will my community share as a result of my planning? 

What tone will we set from moment one? 

Summer video shout-out

Share your summer wanderings – and your thoughts on the year to come – by making a video. An iPhone and very rudimentary iMovie “skills” were all the necessary ingredients – plus a patient brother-in-law as cameraman!

Gather new teachers

Along with a new principal and assistant principal, our school has 10 new teachers! For our first gathering we met in our school garden, admired the tomatoes, and then went on a photo walk of the campus. Teachers took photos of things that answered two questions: What inspires you? What prompts questions for further investigation? They then shared their images with the entire teaching staff for our first PD meeting of the year. Even the 20+ year veterans saw their familiar campus in a new light!

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Walk, talk, make art

Opening PD day for teachers. Last year we took a big hike for most of the day. This year’s day one didn’t take us as far afield – but any opportunity to step outdoors makes the blood circulate and the conversation flow.

Ingredients: butcher paper + pens/pencils/post-its + Question. What inspires you? What are the big questions that will drive your work this year? We will bring these posters out for display in the depths of winter (revisiting the fresh feeling of day one) and late spring (how has our journey unfolded this year? Do the same questions continue to drive us?).

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Go Big on Day One of school

Preparations began in May. We dedicated a part of our day one PD to continue planning. We collaborated with PTA to organize an all-campus barbecue lunch. We brought in a speaker and ended the day with grade level gatherings. We created something together that will serve as a footprint for opening days (and weeks) to come!


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