We are 3.5 weeks into the school year and I am willing to say out loud that 'what you see is what you get'. In this case it is a good thing. I am starting to allow myself to get excited about the year. This group of kids is respectful and engaged. They are willing to work with whatever partner or group they are placed with. The quality of work is better than acceptable. And, with the exception of my special needs students, no one is more than a grade level behind (as opposed to three or four grade levels in the past couple of years).
In addition to this being a promising group of students I am having a great start myself. This is the first time I am teaching the same grade level two years in a row, at the same school, without being really sick. (I was 'all day sick' for almost my entire pregnancy.) So I am able to fine tune some of the things I do and the way I do them. For example, a project I have used many times I finally got completely written out, step by step with entire rubrics. No shock that this clarified the expectations and big surprise, the quality of work went up! (I know that ideally we do this before all assignments, but my reality is that there are so many hours and when something has to get left behind I don't get these things written out completely.)
So the jury has voted and a promising year is in the making.