The first day of school is coming. Ok, it’s still a while away, but I want to do some different things this year and it begins with the first day. Three ideas beginning the first day that will change the entire year.
Do the Unexpected
1. Don’t read rules/syllabus the first day. Unless you are at the elementary level– I know adminstration expects this. Students expect this. Even parents expect this. So I guess that’s why I’ve decided against it. I like to do the unexpected.
Look at it this way: You have just met someone on an important interview and after the first smile and “hello” they proceed to lecture you for nearly an hour about all the rules and what will happen to you if you break one of their (sometimes arbitrary) rules. What would you think? Is this a person that you would ever want to work for?
No, and imagine now if you were a teenager. Instead I have decided to plan a few activities including some that involve movement about the room. This year I am teaching High School. Trust me, they know how to behave–unless they were raised by wolves and this is their first contact with humans.
Will I talk about rules? Ever? Yes, at some point–about the second week. I will even go over the syllabus and important dates for them. And require a parent signature.
2. No seating chart. This is a tough one for me. In 15 years, this will be the first time I have not used a seating chart. And the reason why is simple. If this were a 12 step program I would stand up and declare: Hi, I’m Linda and I’m a CONTROL FREAK! No seating chart means I have to get to know 180 students quickly. I will have to mispronounce a bunch of names and look silly. I will not be able to CONTROL where students are sitting, and who they are sitting next to and who they are talking to.
Instead, I am having students sit where they are comfortable, where they can see and hear and where they are happy(even if I am not). I will have them make name tents with their names on them and collect the name tents at the end of the period and distribute them the next day until I learn all the names –and they learn each others names.
Even at middle school students were insulted by the idea of being forced to sit where they are told and to be honest I can identify with that. When I am told I must sit in a particular place I want to rebel. And I come up with some passive aggressive reason why I cannot sit in that assigned seat.
More Not Less
3. Change in homework policy. Yes, the high school has homework. I have typically resisted all types of homework policies that penalize students for not doing work (which is fairly standard). The policy is usually to give 50% less credit when homework is turned in late. This percentage varies depending on the teacher and how late it is. The idea of homework is to reinforce the content that was taught in class and develop long term learning. But how is this accomplished if we penalize students for doing it and turning it in late? And I hated to dock the points. It seems so unfair to me.
Raise your hand if you have ever arrived late somewhere. Or paid a bill late. Or filed your taxes late.
Did any of those instances give you LESS for being late? No, quite often they required MORE.
I am experimenting with the policy of requiring MORE from students when they are late (except for illness, or circumstances beyond their control. No senior ditch day is NOT beyond their control). More than a day late requires an extra homework problem. A week late: 2 extra problems. A month late 8 extra problems. This way those late students are still expected to do the work, but when you are late you pay a penalty of doing MORE not LESS. One of two things will happen–either they will turn things in on time (or at least faster) to avoid doing more or they will not turn it in at all. And if parents want all the missing work at the end of the semester…..I will be happy to oblige. At least that student will have reviewed for the final.
Trust me, this is the way the IRS works. You don’t pay on time, they do not give you a discount–they want more….much, much more.
For more great ideas: Check out this book I have been reading. I know there is an updated version. This is the one I have been reading on Kindle. I wish it were available on Audible.
And Angela Watson always has terrific ideas on a variety of teacher subjects. I have just joined her 40 hour teacher workweek club to help me streamline some procedures in the classroom so I have more time for fun. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/blog/