July is almost gone and so it is officially time to start (or continue) thinking about going back to school. For a long time, the first day of school was one of my most dreaded days. It isn't just the students who have the nightmares about forgetting their pants and their locker combos! I worried and stressed about making a perfect impression, coming up with the perfect activity and forgetting to cover all the procedures that would set us up for a perfect school year. I also felt some pressure from the administration over the years to enforce and reinforce school rules on the first day. Luckily, over the years the first day has gotten easier and I have learned what doesn't work for me. I am sharing my list below and I'd love to hear what you will or will not be doing on the first day of school! Leave a comment in the comment section below. ;)
On the first day of school, I will not be:
1. reading my syllabus. I give a pretty detailed syllabus and I really want the students to appreciate all the hard work that I put into creating it; however, I have to realize 3 things about said syllabus.
- Reading this detailed document is boring and sometimes insulting to their intelligence. I do not want either sentiment to be my first impression.
- Referring to the syllabus continually over the semester is a much more practical and effective way to teach students about the value of a syllabus in a long-term way that will help them succeed in my class and beyond. I can also fall back here on the old adage about college professors expecting students to read and understand the syllabus on their own, but I do plan to discuss it at length through small conversations throughout the semester since they are not in college yet.
- The highlight reel is plenty for the first day of school. I can spend a maximum of 5 minutes enthusiastically going through the overview of the semester's content and most engaging projects to whet their appetite without overwhelming them or causing them to tune out.
2. going through every rule. I used to think that if I didn't outline the rules specifically, I would have no control and things would spiral out from there. As it turns out, students know the basic rules about being on time, being prepared for class, and being respectful. 5 minutes about the most important things followed by a general air of high expectations can go a long way. The other rules and procedures can be discussed over the coming weeks.
3. spending the whole period on non-subject related icebreakers. I enjoy the process of getting to know my students. I like to know their stories, their hobbies, and their motivations. These authentic relationships develop over time. There is also a pretty good chance that they are doing icebreakers in multiple classes, which can leave them feeling like it was a throw away day. Instead, I think it is a better plan to jump into a high interest, high participation lesson that is content specific and will leave students with a sense that their time was well-spent in meaningful curriculum.
4. talking a lot about myself. I want the students to know and respect me, and I LOVE to tell a humorous story when the moment is right, but I also don't want to distract from the real reason we are gathered together, which is to discover the beauty of Fitzgerald, argumentation, MLA, and so much more. I'm ashamed to say that not talking about myself is one of the most difficult lessons I have learned over the years.
5. doing all the back to school set up. Yes, books must be passed out, seating charts must be made, other work must be done, but it does not all have to happen on the first day. I will not let the first day be overtaken with all that busy work! I will prioritize it and spread it out with real curriculum!
What will you be doing or not doing on the first day of school?