Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Message We Send in the First 3 Days

The jitters, the excitement, the nausea, the anticipation...

All of these are feelings that teachers, administrators, parents and students are feeling prior to the start of the school year. 

I am lucky to have a job that has a start and an end date. Not because I am anxious for it to be over, but because I am anxious for it to start. How many people can say that, without fail, their jobs re-motivated them and challenge them to become better each and every year? My job is never the same and is constantly changing. Therefore, I am never the same and I constantly change. 

As teachers, we think about the next year constantly. Whether it be after a particularly tricky unit where we say, "I will be doing this differently next year." Or when we learn something new and decide to make it a part of our class, "next year". The "next year" is always in our thoughts. 

Well, that "next year" is upon us and it is time for us to put all of those jittery feeling aside and decide how we are going set the tone for the new year. 

My first 3 days have come and gone. As always, I reflect on how everything can be improved or celebrated. 

In my reflections, I asked myself...

What impression have I left on my students in the first 3 days?

What will they remember about the first 3 days?

What did I hope to impart on them in the first 3 days?

In thinking about this, I want you to picture yourself walking through a school during the first 3 days. You can be in any role you wish, parent, student, teacher, administrator, community member...

What do you want to see and hear? 
What would fill your heart with joy?
What would tell you that you are in the right place?

Would it be laughing and giggling during team-building activities?

Or maybe students sitting quietly, listening to expectations and rules?

How about seeing study carrels up while a 2 hour pre-test is being administered?

What about silent lines of kids being lead through the halls?

Or could it be students happily greeting former teachers and old friends?

Would you see students enjoying the newest picture books together?

In my opinion, rules and expectations will come and be understood, data points will be collected and entered. But does it have to happen in the first 3 days?

Don't get me wrong. Students will push boundaries and need reminders about what appropriate school behavior feels like. However, that will happen regardless of when you drill the expectations into their minds. I would rather my students understand my philosophies on our classroom experience and learning journey. I don't want them to go home and think school is all about rules and tests. 

During the first 3 days, I want to be able to stand in the hallway, any hallway, and hear laughing and learning taking place. I want my students to be excited to come back the next day. 

Yes, it will be a bit loud and messy but great learning isn't quiet and controlled. Great learning is approached with excitement, energy and respect for everyone's ideas. 

So... I ask you to reflect on your first three days.

Have you set up a school environment that fosters great learning and  that you would want to come to as a child?

*I have been pondering this topic since reading one of Pernille Ripp's blog posts this summer. My husband and I were traveling and I was getting caught up on Twitter while he was driving. I came across her article on the first few moments of school and it stuck with me. Pernille, thank you for the inspiration.

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