As a teacher, I have the distinct privilege of getting to start over each Fall with a clean slate. I also have the privilege of offering that opportunity to my students. For those who don’t realize it, the phrase “clean slate” comes from the classrooms of the early 19th century, before chalkboards and white boards were invented. Each child had a slate board on which they wrote their class work in Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic. When they were finished with a problem they would wipe the slate off with a rag, thus giving themselves a fresh start, or a “clean slate”.
The idea that we each get to have fresh starts from time to time is one that I embrace with enthusiasm. It means that if we screw up – when we screw up, for as humans, we all will at some point – we can put it behind us and try again. Try to do better. Try to be a better person. Try to live up to whatever goals we have set for ourselves. And we can forgive ourselves if we fall a little short because we know there will be another fresh start in the future.
For my students, it means that when they start a new school year, they are starting at square one with me. I don’t ask their teachers from last year what kind of student they are, or what kind of trouble they got in, or who was the best or worst student in the class. They are not the same people they were this time last year. They aren’t even the same people they were at the end of last year. Nor am I. The months in between have been filled with lots of experiences, growth and learning. For all of us!
I teach 9th grade, and these students are changing rapidly from day to day, week to week and month to month. I love seeing the changes they go through – the personal and intellectual growth – from the first day of school in August to the last day in May. This week, I am meeting them for the first time, and I can’t wait to get to know them!