I am exhausted and full of life, sweaty but calm. I am a middle school teacher and boy oh boy… it’s a good time! My first days were amazing! Everyone, all summer long, has been saying one of two things when I tell them that I’m going to teach middle school, “wow, you’re so brave!” or “BUT WHY?” I’ll tell you something, it doesn’t take someone brave to teach middle school, it takes someone who loves kids. I already fiercely love my kiddos! And as for the why question, they are ornery and sweet and silly and they roll their eyes, but so do I and I’m a grown adult so… cheers to middle school! I LOVE IT! I also LOVE my new school! North Rock Creek has been so welcoming and kind! My new coworkers are amazing and as I said before… I LOVE my new kids! I teared up a bit on Thursday morning before my first classes started because I miss my old kids… BUT, I know they’ll be okay. I’m okay. They’re okay. We’re all okay!!!
I spent the first two days going over my syllabus. BAD IDEA. In middle school, it’s stupid. Instead, I should have spread it out over two weeks and built up a knowledge base of my procedures and rules. NEXT TIME. I see a few other faux pas that I (and please tell me others…) tend to do when we start school.
We talk too fast.
On the first day, if you teach middle or high school, is spent reading off the syllabus and explaining to kids that yes, it is important that they get the 2 inch binder, not the 1 inch because we do way too much work for 1 inch, or making sure all of the kids know exactly where we are to line up in a fire drill or an intruder drill… By the third hour, we are on flight attendant auto-pilot and we are flying through the syllabus and PowerPoint we had prepared. There are a few problems with this, some will be mentioned later. The biggest one is that the kids can’t keep up. They’ve already heard a few other first-day-spiels and their brains are slipping gears from being dormant all summer. They can’t keep up! It can cause students to get the wrong impression of your class and start off an entire year already exhausted, behind, and sick of your class. S l o w i t d o w n. You’ll thank me later.
We have too much down time for which we did not prepare.
Talking too fast means we flew through our PowerPoint with all the funny GIFs and memes (am I the only one who does that? Please tell me I’m not…). Now we have all this down time. Yes, we can chit-chat with students, but there’s always that one kid who gets everyone off topic and takes the reins of the convo AND the classroom — I’m being serious. We want those goofballs to be goofballs, but the sign on the door says YOUR name, not theirs. OVER prepare introductory activities for the first few days. I’m not a The First Days of School representative but y’all… you have plenty of time to train those kiddos on how to enter, exit, sign out, turn in, pick up, and procure. Don’t waste those opening moments. Set the stage with YOU as the manager. Fill the time. Everyone will feel better.
We play get-to-know-you games almost exclusively.
Now now, before you jump down my throat… I am so pro getting to know you. But, if I spend too much time playing games, the more complaints I get when we switch to more work after the first few days. I like to have some sort of worksheet (see my post about that HERE) so that we’re getting back into the idea that we are here to do work, to exercise our communication and stretch our attention. I love to giggle and joke around, so even that first day I am constantly walking around and talking to my kiddos. We’ll get to know each other, we’ve got 180 days!
We become *easily* frazzled.
It’s a stressful day. We’re up on our feet, talking nonstop, we probably don’t eat lunch (the first two weeks, I never remember to eat…). It’s rough. My first year of teaching, I wore 3.5 inch heels all day. What. A. Mistake. Not only was I pooped, I was a cripple, too! Last year, I worked at a pool all summer, always on my feet and yelling at ahem talking to people, so my first day/week was WAY better: I wasn’t tired, I was used to talking and missing meals, and I was already in authoritative mode. Some helpful hints, get your sleep schedule and exercise schedule FIGURED OUT before the first week of school and take your vitamins regularly. It’ll save you so much fatigue and stress later. You might even go as far as to train yourself not to pee for 8 hours. Who am I kidding… that’s just torture.
Whatever faux pas you make on the first day or week of school, give yourself some grace! Better luck tomorrow. Just settle into your new routine and kiddos. School is back in session!
The First Days of School
Seriously, check out Harry and Rosemary Wong’s book The First Days of School. It was assigned reading in Principles of Secondary in college, and I was like okay cool this is nice… And then I started teaching, and I realized that it was magic. I re-read it as a refresher before this school year started. There are two things I desperately need from professional books/development: 1. encouragement and hype and 2. REAL SOLUTIONS AND TOOLS, and this book has them BOTH! This book really is all it’s cracked up to be. Read it! Find it on Amazon by clicking below (I recommend that hardcopy so that you can write smiley faces and amens and yasses in the margins, but that’s just me…)
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