Day 1 – The Most Important Day…

--Originally published at Flipped Learning

The days are getting shorter and the street lights coming on sooner. That can only mean one thing - the start of school is right around the corner. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, parent, or student, the anticipation of the school year brings about many emotions. Amidst all of the anxiety and excitement, students wonder with curiosity about the type of teacher they will have and what fun things they will accomplish by the end of the year.
As a parent of three elementary age students, I love listening to their stories of the first day of school. Who they sat by. Whom they ate lunch with. What they got to do. Without question, their favorite part is always sharing the cool, unexpected fun they had on the first day. The glow in their eyes and big smile are infectious as they retell every detail of the activity and why they can't wait to do it again. Learning on Day 1 was...dare I say FUN!
As I reflect and prepare with teachers for the first day, I am reminded of three valuable lessons that helped me kick off each new year: Kindness starts with a clean slate, Growth Mindset through strengths and passions, and Wow them on Day 1.
Kindness Starts with a Clean Slate
Every student that walked through my door on the first day of school entered with a clean slate. While I understand the importance of having data days, and viewing student profiles, I rarely wanted to know any historical information on student behavior and home support. There are way too many factors that play into those elements and I wanted every student to believe he or she could make this year the best school year ever. If I wanted my class and students to model kindness toward one another, then it had better start with me toward each and every student. Whether it was a hand shake or high-five at the door, allowing students to pick their seat, or having music playing, I wanted students to know they were welcome in my class. Combined with gathering students' self identified profiles and wowing them on day 1, students needed to know they were going to be valued and an integral part of the look and feel their classroom was going to take.
Growth Mindset through Strengths and Passions
In addition to starting with a clean slate, I always wanted to know what my students perceived as their strengths and self-identify who their friends are and support structures each has in place. As students grow from year-to-year, so do their strengths, passions, and support structures. I had been using a document to gather that information, however, I recently stumbled across this document from Kevin Honeycutt. Kevin talks about filling this out with each student to demonstrate collaboration between teacher and student, as well as building rapport with students on a different level. I always liked giving each student time to share who they are with me. It helped me to demonstrate that FAIL really meant First Attempt In Learning and that we were all going to experience a moment of failure throughout the year. The important part was learning from those moments and 'failing forward' as I described it.
Wow Them on Day 1
You may be wondering at this point, how did I fit all of this in at the beginning of the school year? Truth be told, I was more concerned with getting to know students, helping them feel welcomed and comfortable in their new class than I was with getting into content. I figured the more time I spent building rapport on the front end, the less time I needed to spend reminding students of the expectations and rules - and it always paid off. However, probably the most important thing I could do to set the tone for the school year was in attempting to make the first day the best day of the year. Aside from taking attendance, I wanted students to experience a high energy, face paced classroom that infused technology as part of the learning process. Whether it was an iPad station with math apps, a math table that students could write on, a coding station to build critical thinking and problem solving, or a mini Rube Goldberg station, I wanted students to see that learning in my class was going to be different than any learning they had ever experienced before.
Think carefully about the message you are sending students on day one this year. What do you want them to go home and tell their family and friends about? How do you want them to come back on day 2, day 50, and the rest of the year? You have the ability to paint a future for each student that may have never been painted before. Show them your kindness and passion - giving each one a chance to succeed.

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