Find First Day Teacher Success
Imagine a teacher sitting at his or her desk in a classroom that isn’t too much different than the classrooms you sat in. Oh, there may be a computer here or there but the furnishings are pretty much the same: teacher’s desk, students’ desks, clock, a chalkboard or wipe board and textbooks. In a few days the school doors will open and that same teacher will welcome students and hope that her or his time spent in preparation will win over the students. First impressions are as important in teaching as they are in the business world.
For those of you who have never taught, the days before school officially begins are fun but stressful. Teachers scurry and scrounge around to get their classrooms in order. Teachers pick up what some other teacher has discarded or what the custodians were about to put in the dumpster. They visit with the school secretary to see if their new textbooks have arrived or check in with the media person to learn how to navigate some new software. It’s a busy time of the year.
Many years ago I prepared a teacher’s first day checklist. It included such things as, be sure to say each student’s name, make them laugh, show them slides of you and your family (this was before Power Point), give them a test, and tell them how special the next lesson will be. I have found that if teachers do some simple things and avoid hitting hard on the content, success is more likely to follow. Trust is the key and if you can start building trust that very first day, students are more likely to learn the next day and the next day and the next.
In keeping with my personal motto, “I learned a lot since I knew it all,” I have developed a new list of things for teachers to do on the first day.
Be sure and tell your students about yourself. Tell them about the struggles you had in school. Tell them how you were able to graduate from high school and college. I call this teaching History 100—a history about you. Teachers need to allow themselves to become the textbook.
Remind students about how to go to school. Just because a student is in tenth grade or a senior in college, they still need to be reminded about how to find success in school. Remind students to raise their hand, to get to know their teachers, to get to class on time and to not skip school. These may sound like common sense but to many students, they are uncommon.
Tell students that it is important for all them to be nice to one another. Teach niceness. This world will not survive unless we become a kinder world. Parents wouldn’t want it any other way and since you are acting in the role of a parent, tell students, teach students, remind students how important it is to be nice.
Tell students at all levels that they need to graduate. Teachers at the k-16 level share in this responsibility. It’s the number one goal of education. Our world will be safer, more productive, less problematic, when all of our students have an education, which means having a high school diploma and some form of learning beyond high school. Our goal should always be, 100% graduation rate for high schools and colleges.
Visit. Forget about going through the class syllabus or opening up the textbook or going over the rules, spend those first minutes of class just visiting. Pretend you are all sitting on a blanket out under a large shade tree sipping some lemonade and eating cookies. Just visit. What did you do this summer? Did you go to the fair? How was fishing? See any good movies lately? What kind of music do you like?
Give them something to eat. Food brings people together. Eating and laughing are two things we all enjoy. The first time spent with kids of all ages needs to be an enjoyable time. Why food? I want my students to begin associating whatever I am teaching (in my case, public speaking) with something that is enjoyable.
Tell them a joke or make them laugh. Since I am a riddle collector, I always tell students a riddle or two. They moan and groan at my sense of humor but they smile and chuckle and will probably repeat the riddle to the next person they meet. I always tell them my favorite riddle even though the whole world has heard it by now: What is the difference between boogers and broccoli? (Answer: Kids don’t like broccoli.)
Play a game. There are a myriad of team building games out there. These games are focused on getting to know one another. One of my secrets of good teaching is that the better you know your students, the more they will learn.
Give them time to share something about themselves. Give them a chance to participate, get them engaged. Your group game could accomplish this.
To my fellow teachers: I am beginning my 52nd year of teaching and I still look forward to reminding students as they walk out the door, “Don’t forget to graduate.” Have a good year everyone. Now where did I put those Crayolas?
Riddle For The Day: What do you do if a teacher rolls his/her eyes at you?
(Pick them up and roll them back!) When you tell your students this riddle, they will roll their eyes at you. That’s fine. Just pick them up and roll them back.