Summer is finally over. Parents are secretly smiling as they shoo their kids out the door, snap a few first day of school photos and sigh. Yes, some of you might shed a few tears over the passage of time and the impending high school graduation – even if it’s still five years away. And some of you try to walk your kids to their first class in middle school (a big no-no) and even more of you hover in the parking lot or your local coffee shop and quietly wonder what’s happening to your kid inside the walls of their 7th and 8th grade classrooms.
As I start my 25th year of middle school, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek. And one thing your kids say might just be true: the first day of school can be a real snoozer. Far too many teachers fill their first moments with kids drilling them with rules and consequences, with syllabi and seriousness.
Fortunately, I came to my senses and gave that up long ago. Middle school is about relationships. It’s about smiling, about showing you care, and letting kids know that school can actually be fun – even when it’s not lunch or passing period.
On the first day of school, I like to mix it up and actually do an activity that gets kids thinking, analyzing and moving straight away. One of my favorites is called “Post the post it on the poster”.
My motivation here is two fold: I want kids to know what I’m thinking about as I start the year, and I also am surreptitiously watching how they move, who they gravitate towards and of course, how they respond to my questions.
How would you answer these?
One of my favorite (and most common) responses: little did I know I’d have to channel my inner entertainer when I began teaching middle school!
Do you think this kid is serious, or just trying to make nice with the new teacher?
No, this wasn’t the “what kind of a teacher do you want” question – this one was about what kids should be doing in the classroom. Ha ha!
I love when they tell me what to do – and boy, do they love to tell me…
And yes, they definitely have their priorities straight about why they’re there:
Of course, I have to bring it back around to the beginning of the year, and have them think about themselves (middle school kids LOVE to think about themselves!):
No pressure, huh? Can you believe how many of them set goals around their grades? Is that their parents talking?
This one was my favorite. I wish I knew who wrote it, but then again, it doesn’t really make much difference. Be the best we can be. Be open to new things. If we can accomplish that goal, we’re going to have an amazing year.
I’ll let you know how it goes!
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