I have been stopping by our classroom, dropping off books, bringing in new yoga balls, rearranging, cleaning, taking the time to do all of those little things that get us started as we think of the year ahead. As we get excited for the year ahead. As we plan in our heads, hold on to our dreams, and try to make a path for the year that lies ahead.
I have been thinking about that first day, the almost 80 minutes I will have with each of our new classes as I pour over their names and class lists get settled. About the type of experience, I want to try to set up for these kids who may be nervous about middle school, who may be excited or not to come back to school. About that very first day and the first impression that I would like to give these kids. After all, I want them to feel welcome, I want them to feel safe, I want them to feel challenged, and I want them to want to come back.
That can be a tall order for just a simple first day.
And while there is an abundance of great first day ideas online; puzzles, team building, challenges, no work, no syllabus! I also worry about whether some of these activities set kids up to only disappoint them later. Do these activities entice kids to think that this year, that our class, will be different than what they are used to – yeah! – but then only to be disappointed the next day when all of the first day “fun” is now gone and the traditional structure of school begins? I guess it depends on the type of classroom we create. If our class is not one filled with choice, if our class is not one filled with hands-on challenges, if our class is one mostly centered around the teacher but the first day isn’t like that, then what are we trying to make the students believe?
So I think there is a balance to be had. Yes, of course, get kids excited but at the same time don’t hide the type of class it will be. Find components that will give students a feel for what they can expect so that they can legitimately start to feel welcome. Be honest in your expectations and set the groundwork. Ease back into school but do it through meaningful work.
Besides, it will never truly be about the activities, but always about how the kids end up feeling after being with us.
As for my own first day back? I am not sure, yet. There will be picture books, there will be book shopping, there will be choice and there will be conversation. There will be a chance for us to feel each other out and for students to start to fill in the gaps of what this year may be like. I still have a few weeks left of summer to dream, we shall see what happens.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.