I love the fact that my grown up profession revolves around a calendar that includes back to school clothes and school supplies. As a teacher, I always needed a “new” start the school year off fabulously outfit. It was just part of the deal! Now as an admin, I get two. One for teachers first day back, and then another one for when the kids come. (what?)
I also had a pink file folder, labeled first day of school in cute letters with lil’circles on the end, that I pulled out every year. It was full of articles, ideas, and fun “get to know you” activities that I had found throughout the years and stuck in this file. It always carried over into the first couple of days, much to my team’s consternation. They wanted to start switching classes and get to their teaching as quickly as possible. I never felt that sense of urgency.
Alan November shared a story where a physics teacher spent the first five days of his class teaching his students how to solve the problems they would be facing. He showed them Wolfram Alpha, how and where to find quality research, how to cite sources, and how to collaborate with their peers. He spent five days teaching the students how to be successful in his classroom. Five whole days. Can you imagine teachers NOT teaching their curriculum for five days? But instead built a foundation that ensured success? Love.
I immediately tweeted “What you do in the first five days shows what you value in your classroom.” I was surprised by the reaction…many wrote back saying that yes, they focused on expectations, on setting rules, on establishing parameters.
We had one rule in my class. Make me look good. That was it. It didn’t take me all day to teach that. Every question they had directly came back to that one statement.
“Do you have an extra pencil?”
“So & so said such and such.”
“I forgot my homework.”
My reaction was always the same. Does that make me look good? How can you fix it? They learned very quickly to be problem solvers and to adjust their train of thought to what was most appropriate. We spent the rest of the time making sure we KNEW each other, on a level to where they WANTED to make me look good. I learned their likes, their dislikes, their strengths and their weaknesses. My job was to prepare them for life in the fourth grade, and theirs was to make me look good. I had a 100% passing rate on our state tests for the 6 years I taught and relationships I still maintain with so many of them…I think we both were successful.
Plus, too many rules? Meant I had to have too many consequences, and who has time for that.
easy to please,