With the start of the new school year just around the corner, we asked local teachers for their thoughts on what a perfect first day would be like. The following are their responses.
What does your ideal first day of school look like?
I am able to get everything done in 51 minutes. There is laughter and focus. Students leave looking forward to returning.
—Ellen Simonis, Trout Lake School, Trout Lake
My ideal first day would be one where all of the students in my classes come to school properly fed, clothed, sheltered, and without any damaging stress caused by living in poverty.
—Bill Foster, Cheney Middle School, Cheney
Students with schedules already established, going to classes wherein they find the teachers contracted for the year. All the books/supplies for the quarter are already in place, and students and teachers can start learning about each other. No first day placement tests. No excessive hall wandering. Lots of smiling.
—Tom O’Kelley, Oakland High School, Tacoma
A class that is reasonable in size so I can reach out to every student every day, necessary supplies that I don’t have to buy out of my own pocket (approx. $500 a year, or more) and a clean, safe classroom.
—Corie Jones, Elk Plain School of Choice, Spanaway
What do you do to establish order at the beginning of the school year?
I make sure I share my background. I open to them so that they feel safe to open up to me. Building trust with new students is paramount. Time spent doing this in the first days of school will pay off later. When students know you care about them, they will work their tails off for you. They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
—Rebecca Ritchie, Nelsen Middle School, Renton
Start off with a lab — syllabi are boring and puts a damper on the start of a school year. Get kids excited to be in class!
—Dan Tedor, Decatur High School, Federal Way
A seating chart that requires the kids to figure out the pattern. ‘Talk to your neighbor, consult with your classmates: WHY are you sitting exactly where you are?!’
Also, meet each kid at the door and welcome them as they enter. Show them how much you love your job and value their presence.
—Tara Bacher, Kennedy Catholic High School, Burien
Communicate that I am interested in their growth and have a clear plan for what we will accomplish, and that we will all become a learning community.
—Elizabeth Lund, Skyline High School, Sammamish
My students and I work together to establish a set of classroom agreements that we promise to adhere to throughout the year. This list of agreements is proudly displayed with the signature of each and every person in the room, including mine. We begin this process by thinking about situations where we could not do our best learning, and brainstorm a list of conditions that are necessary for this to occur. Students work in groups to synthesize these into the list of agreements. When an issue arises during the year, I simply point to the list and ask the student, ‘Which one of those agreements that you made are you in danger of breaking?’ That is usually sufficient to bring their behavior back into conformity with their intentions.
—Amy Miller, Bernice Vossbeck Elementary School, Lynden
Move quickly, take no prisoners, leave not a minute unplanned.
—Gerald Carrell, Arts & Academics Academy, Seattle
Editor’s note: This post, originally published at 5 a.m. Sept. 1, was updated at 9:35 a.m. Sept. 2 to include an additional response.