As you can see from the Opening of the School Year, our first day is a half day, allowing us some time to get to know the students, check to make sure classes are properly balanced, and maybe clear the dust off the tables. At the high school, we may also be face with computer glitches, Z drive errors and other technology issues that will come from having all of the computers updated (hooray!).
There’s a lot on our minds for the first day of school, probably the most important being what to do with your kids on that first day to set the tone of the class, get the kids excited about school or your subject, and make sure that they understand your expectations for them.
Some tips for making a great first day:
Greet your students at the door and be present in the hallways to help lost students find their way. If you’re at the high school, stay in the hallways between class periods, this is a scary time for freshman.
The first thing kids do when they enter a class is to look for friends. Watch them as they go into the classroom as their eyes scan about hoping to find someone they know so they don’t feel all alone. High school students can be very sensitive to this, they will be very worried about where they are going to sit and who they know. If you ask a freshman what worries them the most it will probably be lunchtime, they have a lot of anxiety about where they will sit and they fear sitting alone.
You may let the kids sit where they want the first day, but if you plan is to assign them seats, you might as well get it over with. A quick way, that also takes a little pressure off the kids is to put the seating chart on the projector. Tell the students upon entering to find their seat by looking at the board. This also eliminates the need for you to make everyone stand up and move after class has already started.
Time to take role. If everything has gone as expected, you should have a list with your class roster from the office. If you don’t, print a blank grade sheet from skyward, which should list all your students and have a grid for you to make notes. Be prepared to write down phonetic pronunciations of names and mark any students who do not show up. From past experience, skyward may or may not be operational, keep a hard copy. The office of your building will probably have additional instructions for taking attendance.
Depending on the schedule, you may end up with 15-30 minutes left in the class to come up with something for the students to do. Many teachers opt to go over their class rules and expectations. Some might do a group activity to help learn everyone’s names, and some might even do a more involved team-building project. There are quite a few ideas on “First Day Activities” and many more out there you can find with a simple search on Google. Try looking for icebreakers or first day activities.
Lunches are not served in the cafeteria on the first day, students leave early so presumably can eat at home. This leaves the afternoon to plan for day 2, rearrange your classroom, or put together bulletin boards. So far, the schedule does not include any specifics on building meetings, but don’t be surprised if you end up having some impromptu meetings in your building, team, or department.