5 Things I Won't Be Doing The First Day Of School

July is almost gone, so it is officially time to start 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 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 to enforce and reinforce school rules on the first day.

Luckily, over the years, the first day has gotten more manageable, 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: 

Reading my syllabus. My syllabus is thorough and detailed because I want it to be one document that houses all of the procedures for the classroom; however, I have to realize three things about said syllabus: 

  • Reading this detailed document is tedious and sometimes insulting to their intelligence. I do not want either sentiment to be my first impression. Generally speaking, if you are a high school English Language Arts teacher, they come to you knowing how to read. 
  • 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 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 get them excited without boring them. 

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. But, as it turns out, students know the basic rules about being on time, being prepared for class, and being respectful- Basically, how to be a student. Five minutes about the most essential 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.

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. However, these authentic relationships develop over time. There is also a good chance they are doing icebreakers in multiple classes, leaving them feeling like it was a throw-away day. Especially if you’re doing the ice breakers you just learned in your beginning of the year meetings, which most teachers tend to use at the same time. 

Instead, I think it is a better plan to jump into a content-specific, high-interest, high participation lesson that will give students a sense that their time was well spent on a meaningful curriculum. Try this Personal Advertisement creative writing activity to get things going! 

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 typically give them three boring facts and three fun facts about myself and move on to the next activity. 

Doing all the back-to-school setup. Yes, books must be passed out, seating charts must be made, and 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 the actual curriculum!

I know it can be tempting to ease into the year with routines, but if we want to form relationships with students that will last throughout the year, starting the year off right will be invaluable to you and your students! 

What beginning of the year activities do you do with your students? 

Topics: back to school, Classroom Management, first day, Holiday/Seasonal

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