Not every school welcomes visitors with cameras in hand on a Friday afternoon at the beginning of the school year! The Rafael Hernandez K-8 administrators and staff gave me a warm welcome along with their official visitor”€™s pass. I walked in and out of classrooms trying to be as unobtrusive as possible while taking photos of students engaged in their schoolwork.

In the auditorium, Rosalba Solis was teaching a group of first graders a dance involving changes in direction and partners. I was impressed by the focus and joy expressed in the children”€™s faces as they managed these complicated movements. Her advice to readers of this column was to “€œlove teaching and have FUN!” In another class, students were eagerly examining and drawing flowers under the guidance of their science teacher. Upstairs, middle school students were quiet and intent while responding to the first of a series of writing prompts, in both English and Spanish!

I was curious as to how the Hernandez managed such a smooth opening. Certainly it helps to have administrative and staffing consistency over time, something that feels like a luxury in BPS these days! Third grade teacher Magda Rodriguez stressed the importance of establishing routines, saying that the beginning of the day is “€œcritical”€ and explaining how she modeled and had students practice walking in and saying, “€œGood morning!”€ from the minute they entered her classroom.

Erin Sudduth credits the “€œlooping”€ she does, keeping students from fourth through fifth grade, as a way to ease back-to-school anxiety. Blanca Burgos, a Humanities teacher for grades 6-8, thinks ongoing communication and the staff”€™s annual week-long Summer Institute, which provides extended time for teachers to plan within grade-level teams, is crucial.

All of these, of course, are effective ways to create a smooth beginning to the school year. Here”€™s hoping your school, too, is off to a good start!

Amika Kemmler-Ernst is a recently retired BPS New Teacher Developer with extensive experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and graphic artist. Her “€œWe”€™re Learning Here”€ series features images of everyday learning in our public schools, along with the words of the students pictured. Please invite her to visit your school this year!