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How can I tell the new school year is about to start?  My social media feed – it is filled with posts aimed at new teachers, veteran teachers, administrators, new parents, parents of high school students, and, of course, students.

These posts are filled with absolutes.

~10 (or 15 or 20) things to NEVER  do the first day of school.

~10 (or 15 or 20) things to ALWAYS do the first day of school.

~MUST do learning space arrangements

~NEVER do learning space arrangements

~5 (or 10 or 50) MUST use technology apps for teachers

~The latest MUST have back to school fashions

~This year’s MUST have school supplies

~10 (or  20 or 100) MUST pack lunches for your child

~Things you MUST have on your college application (or in your essay)

~Words you should NEVER use when writing your college application (or in your essay)

You get the idea.

Advice written in stone.

Advice that comes across as fact rather than opinion.

Advice that cannot be ignored because if you do you must be a bad teacher (administrator, parent, student).

I’ll admit I read through them – some because I’m looking for ideas, others because I can’t believe someone can be so presumptuous.

I think it’s great to offer advice on what we have experienced or see as successful, but I think we have to be cautious in how we project that.

If we assume that there is an all or nothing approach to the first day of school, the perfect packed lunch, or the Holy Grail of college applications then we lose sight of the big picture in education: meeting the needs of students.

I believe that when we speak in absolutes we lose credibility.

We come across as a “my way or the highway” kind of person, and I don’t think that’s what most of us want.

Do I think teachers should smile before Christmas? Yes!

But it shouldn’t be forced or fake. Kids can see right through that.

Do I think the first day of school should be about more than rules? Yes!

But I know there are big picture thinkers who really NEED to know what you expect.

Do I think kids should have healthy lunches? Yes!

But I know that just because you pack it doesn’t mean they’ll eat it.

Do I think time and effort needs to be put into college applications? Yes!

But when my 11 year old states he should stay in 4-H (something he did not enjoy) because it would look good on his college application, we have a problem.

This will be year 28 for me. No two have been exactly alike.

I learn.

I grow.

I change.

Most of all, I get to know the group I have and go from there.

I may have curriculum to follow and standards to meet, but I know that students are not standard.

They come in all shapes and sizes and abilities.

And I do them (and myself) a disservice if I only work in absolutes.