13 Comments

  1. Jen

    I’ve been thinking the same things lately. I’m a high school teacher so it translates to our first week – not the first day. I want to take at least 4-5 hours to try to get to know the kids. I have a fun “color” personality test that I give the kids to start the ball rolling. Some teachers might think I’m “wasting” a week but I think that will be the most important week of the year!

    • George

      What I think is important is that when you build relationships and culture, that time you will get back tenfold, as opposed to just focusing on the stuff. It might not seem like it at first, but that time you are talking about is an investment, not an expenditure. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Vilma Manahan

    Hi, George

    The best quality of your blogs is your HONESTY in your writing. You never hesitate to share your failures and the process you’re doing to make it better the fact that you are such a well-known and trusted leader in education. Teachers like me can easily relate to your thinking.

    Even before the first day of school, a lot of teachers are already stressed out about room decoration and setup assuming that our design layout of choice will be the same for the students that will be living in our classroom for the rest of the school year. I remember years ago when we sold our first home and I was considering about getting the interior painted again before it’s placed in the market. Our agent said, “Don’t worry about that as long as the paint is not peeling.” No matter what colour you choose, the new owners will change it to their liking.”

    Giving the students the chance to “recreate” the room will make them feel valued. This will be a breakthrough of the traditional plan that I would normally do.

    • George

      Thank you Vilma :) I really appreciate your kind words and support you have for me! Incredibly grateful. Thank you for your story…Love the connection to paint in the house.

  3. Teri

    A great & timely read. I’ve been reflecting about my 1st day practices. As an educator and past student I always hated icebreakers, I was really shy and they made me uncomfortable. I liked getting to know people by working with them. As a teacher I always introduce rules, expectations, the whole course overview AND made the kids do an icebreaker… all on Day 1. Wow. I know they don’t remember everything I ‘tell them’ on Day 1. So why was I wasting my time doing things that I didn’t enjoy and that weren’t getting my students excited about learning? Probably because it was what I thought was expected of me, it was what I had experienced in school. Time to make a new normal and show my students from Day 1 that our space is for learning.

  4. Hey George,
    There are some great ideas here for classroom teachers! As a high school English teacher, we were always encouraged to give students a diagnostic reading and writing passage in the first few days! I remember deferring that so I could do drama icebreakers! Which I loved! But I’m sure many students hated having to do that!
    Since I don’t have a class currently, what really resonates for me is the idea of going into a PD session with a rough plan and having the learners dictate the learning. As you indicated though, and I’ve seen you facilitate a group of learners, this involves vast knowledge, confidence, and more than a little bit of risk. Your post speaks to the potential power of letting go of a stringent agenda and allowing the voices of the learners to determine what they need most. What a different tone that would set! Might be worth a try!

  5. Jimmy Blackwood

    Hey George… I remember my first day of teacher’s college at OISE. The instructor, Frank Taylor, took the time as each teacher candidate sat down to come over and introduce himself. He shook each person’s hand, asked a few questions, talked a bit about himself, and then moved on to the next student. Not before, or since, have I had a teacher/instructor do this.

    It ate up a lot of time that first class – but it had such a profound impact on me. I think about that moment, 15 years later, on the First Day in my classroom as I try to replicate that experience for my students. As you have said so many times – relationships are so very important in education – this should be the focus for the first day. Thanks for this post.

  6. Lynn

    Hi there,

    Just discovered your blog. I’ve been a grade 6 teacher for ten years and before that taught kindergarten.

    This year I will be teaching three different grades with three different subjects. Will have, in other words, five different groups.

    I always enjoyed the few days before school starts when everyone is feverishly preparing the classroom.
    This year, I don’t have a homeroom class but I do have a classroom. I don’t know yet which groups will come into my room and which groups I will see in their room.

    Your post about not overplanning day one is an important one and very timely for me because one of my main concerns is how I will be able to build connections and relationship with so many students.

    It is a completely new experience for me to have so many students.

    Any advice?

    Thanks.

    Lynn

  7. So glad to know that someone else is where I am on this! I have a vision for Day 1, but I can’t call it a “plan.” I am committed to engaging my staff in the kickoff and having the bulk of the content come from authentic collaboration. I keep hearing peers talk about elaborate programs and presentations they’ve prepared, but that doesn’t match where I am now and want to go. If I’m totally off-base, a least I’m not alone, LOL!

  8. I am beginning year #27 this morning with students – my 14th as a principal. The time spent to forge the relationships and get to know your students is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING in setting the groundwork for the school year for your students and YOU! It is the most valuable time spent – it was when I was teaching for 11 years, it is as 600 middle schoolers come through our doors and I strive to know every one by name and greet them as such, and it is shared by parents when they write their “Million Word Essays” on the students they are sending us as new 6th graders……thanks for reinforcing that message George and fellow colleagues! Have a great year!

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