Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Impressions - First Days of School

When our youngest son was born, the nurse  remarked on his footprint this way, "Well, be prepared. This is going to be a big boy someday!" This did not make sense to me since at birth he weighed 7 lbs. 15 oz. and was 20 inches long. This during the time when many of my friends were having C-Sections because they were having 10 lb. babies! The first five years of his life led me to believe that nurse was definitely wrong because Charles seemed well within the range of normal as he grew.

But now he's 19. Things have certainly changed. He's 6 ft. 1 inches and 200 lbs. He towers easily over both his father and me. This is not the baby whose footprints I still have pressed into his baby journal - or is he?

How did this obstetrics nurse know that my son would be "big"? She was very specific. She said he'd be at least 6 ft. tall, have big feet, and be an all around "big guy." Her assessment of what was in his and our future was uncanny. Later there were other confirmatory signs. Our pediatrician told us that however tall your child is at 3 years old, double that and that is what he will grow to be. According to my baby book Charles was 36" at 3 years old. Today he is 63" (or 6 ft. 1 inch) and wears a size 14 shoe.

Prior knowledge, experience and expertise all help us interpret a first impression. Not just anyone could have looked at my baby boy's footprints and make such an accurate prediction. Someone who was trained to know what to look for could. As a teacher I'm challenged to interpret my first impressions of students. By the end of the first couple of weeks of school, I know what I can expect from most of my students. I've learned how to read the signs. Coupled with my knowledge and prior experiences, I can predict who is going to get along and who is not. It's not perfect predictive power, but it comes close.

I can also tell what kind of relationship I will have with parents based on our early contact and communication.

What kind of first impressions have been made so far this school year? I will say that unlike my baby's footprints, which can never be repeated, it is never too late to make a good first impression. You (if you're a parent) can always change a teacher's mind about you or your child - and you (if you're a teacher) can always change a parent's mind about you!