"Hi Mrs. Sabo. Do you remember me?"
My eyes scanned the face of the fifth grader before me as my mind tried to link him with the first-grade version I must have known.
"Of course," I cheerily lied, "but help me out with your first name."
"De'oujmun, but everyone calls me De."
It turns out he had been in my classroom as a first grader, but only for a week. He attended five schools after that, and had just returned to ours again.
"Wow," I said. "You have a lot of experience being the new kid. Tell me, what are some things that teachers and students did to make you feel welcome?"
He thought for a second and shared that at some schools, the teachers were friendly and made sure he had everything he needed. Students in those schools were welcoming, showed him around, and included him at recess. Others schools didn't feel as good. He said he felt disrespected by both teachers and students.
I assured him that we were delighted he was back in our halls.
It can be disconcerting when we get that call from the office announcing that a new student is coming the next morning or is already on their way down the hall. My heart rate quickens at the thought. But I'm reminded how important it is to take a deep breath, put on a genuinely happy face, and model a spirit of welcome and belonging that students can emulate. The impression we leave on a student's first day will likely be indelible, whether they are with us for five days, 180 days, or anywhere in between. Let's make their first day a great one.