First Days of School

With just ten days left until the start of school, I’ve been ramping up my prep for the new school year. After two years in one district, I’m making a move to a different district closer to our home west of Boston. I’m happy and excited about this change, even if I’m terribly nervous about starting over at a new school. It’s difficult to think about those first few days , as I struggle to set the tone for the kind of teacher I’m going to be for the 125 new faces before me.

I like to give homework on the first day of school, so that my students understand I’m serious about their learning and will hold them to a high and rigorous standard. The assignment I’ve given on the first day for the past two years I plan to repeat with my new classes. I love that it’s creative, gives me a taste of their writing skill and style, and tells me something about them that I might not get from their first day student survey. I’m asking them to write poetry, but it’s a structured form of poetry with the first three words provided for them. Plus, with the model I provide, it’s a good way for them to learn something about me: that I’m willing to share pieces of myself with them as we learn together throughout the year.

The original idea for this homework came from a colleague via this website:

“Where I’m From” Poem

I am from a small, brown house, now razed to the ground,

The land holding memories of

A wooden swing set behind a heavily shaded, slate patio

Where I would spend hours pumping through the air,

Trying to touch the sunlit trees above.

A driveway full of rocks that cut into my young feet.

Bamboo growing unwieldy by the garage,

The leaves taken as food for my stuffed panda bear.

Wild raspberry bushes hidden behind the compost,

And I would sneak berries, staining my fingers blood red

Before I slipped them into my mouth.


I am from love, two parents eager for children.

From a world of “We never quit,”

And “It’s ok to cry.”

From nights of racing into my mother’s lap for a bedtime story.

I am from a world made bigger by stories,

By education and the opportunities it has always held

Ever so slightly out of my reach, so that I never stop learning.


And I am from rooms with floors bathed in golden light.

Century-old walls whisper secrets of lives that have passed.

Pencil marks etched deep into the wood of a doorway

Tell of growth by inches, by feet.

I breathe easily as

A black cat swishes her long hair against my legs,

Watching the world through an open window.

-Ms. Jones

HOMEWORK: Now write your own “Where I’m From” poem. Where are you from? You can write about your house, your town, your city, your state, your country, your heritage, your family, your values and beliefs, etc. Think about the senses associated with theses places. What do you smell, taste, see, hear, feel, and touch? Think about specific details or experiences you remember. It should be at least 15 lines. You can decide how many stanzas you would like to include.


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