Its truly hard to believe that I’ve been teaching for 32 years. First days still feel like those first days with the crazy school dream the night before and the excitement and apprehension before classes begin. I’m sure this year will be no different.
You’d also think that, after 32 years, I’d have this first day thing down pat. Well… I’m sure I did something pretty decent one year … but then I decided that wasn’t good enough and changed it. That’s the great thing about teaching. Every year is a “do-over!” This year I’ve decided to pull together a few things from previous years.
- Start with the Name Tag activity. I’ve done this one for the past several years and I really like it. It gives me a chance to get to know my students and to give them the chance to get to know me. I love responding to each student even though it takes some time. Full disclosure – I may have stolen this from my twitter friend Shelli Temple (@druinok). Here’s her post on her first day activities. I always use the inside to ask a question each day and to respond to their answers. I haven’t decided what I’m going to ask them to put in the outside corners quite yet. I seem to change it up every year.
- Once they’ve shared some things about themselves with the members of their group, I share some things about myself. Some years I’ve just told them some basics – how many years I’ve been teaching, married, how many kids I have etc. and then some years I’ve made them guess – quiz style. Not sure where I’m at yet this year.
- Introduce productive struggle and cooperative group work. I did this activity (Teaching kids to struggle) last year and really loved how it went. The idea is to introduce the students to the idea that we can all learn something even if we don’t know how at first and we can all help each other learn it.
- At this point I’ll more formally introduce the idea of growth mindset and how that plays into how our class will run. We’ve been using standards based grading in all our classes from Algebra 1 to Algebra 3/Trig for the last 4 years or so. I have a mix of 9th – 12th graders in my Algebra 2 classes. Some will have experienced it and some not so its important to me to be sure everyone is clear on why we do it and how we do it. I use a mix of videos and a prezi to help out here.
You’ll notice that there is really no place here where I say – Go over the syllabus or class rules. Nope – don’t do it. I cover procedures and expectations as we need them and the students first task to do on their own is to review the syllabus.
So that’s it… Day 1. I have found that I really can’t do much more.
Post script – Teachers start back tomorrow (8/15) and our kids come back a week from Wednesday. While I’ve been thinking about these plans and sketching them out in my head and as a draft here for several weeks, recent events have caused me to pause a bit. You see, I live in Charlottesville, VA. I teach an amazing, extremely diverse group of students at the local high school. I’m honored to work with colleagues that truly love and care about our students and their families and each other. That’s what we do – WE LOVE, we don’t hate. My students need me and I need them. We will rise!
First day plans – LOVE my KIDS! ALL OF THEM! Every. Single. Day.