Tag Archives: first day

How Do You Plan to Trust Students This Year?

hall pass

From http://www.efestivals.co.uk/forums/topic/164728-t-minus-and-counting/page-74

I have been thinking a ton lately about the start of the school year including what I want to do on the first day, but especially about building culture.

I really think many teachers underestimate the importance of culture in schools and classrooms. In my opinion everything about the experience is culture: what we say, how we say it, what we never say, architecture, furniture, lighting, tone of voice, body language, what we do and don’t do, what students do or aren’t allowed to do. Every interaction and activity is a part of our culture and creates the “norms.”

Many teachers have shifted from a syllabus and the “rules” the first day of class to community building and things like designing social contracts together. I applaud this, but it is not enough! If we all agree to be responsible, but you never trust students then you are undermining the culture. If we agree to respect one another but then you micromanage every part of the class then you don’t really respect your students.

What students need from us is trust. Too often we start off the year with an assumption of negative behaviors from students that we need to cut off before they happen. Students will be off-task, misbehave, and waste time. The truth is that they probably will sometimes. But the danger of starting the year with this assumption is that it starts with a negative expectation. The other truth is that students will do amazing things that you never expected and teach you things, if you let them. Let’s try focusing on this instead the first day.

An example from my room is that I always tell students (10th grade) that they are not allowed to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink in my class. I always say it in my most serious tone with a dramatic pause. Then I say, “Just get up and go if you have to go. I am not here to babysit you for basic human needs.” My starting point is assuming trust and responsibility.

I understand that this example might not work for your specific situation, but what can you do to communicate a starting position of trust, respect, and responsibility rather than expectations of poor behavior?

The Best Project That We Will Do This Year!

My pastor was talking about exploring your passion today and played this viral video-a tribute by passionate fans asking Foo Fighters to come to their little town in Italy. I have been wondering how I want to start off this year and this made it all click for me.

The first day in class I am going to share some videos of young people doing amazing things that they are passionate about. I haven’t figured out which ones yet, but definitely want young people doing things for the good of others. If you have a great suggestion I would love to hear it in the comments.

Then I will share with the students about the best project that we are going to do this year:

I want to tell you guys about the best project that you are going to do this year. It is going to be so incredible and life changing for the audience. It will change your lives too as you make sacrifices and make a differences for others. I can’t tell you very many details about it today though. It is kinda a secret. Not so much a secret from you, but from me. 

You see, the thing is, I can’t tell you more about it because I don’t know anything else about it yet. Last year you did some incredible projects like design tools to help refugees and made documentaries to honor WWII veterans. You were in your first year of PBL and those projects were designed by your teachers. You are no longer freshmen.

This year the best project will be when you take over this class and decide to do something amazing. The teachers are not going to come up with the purpose, product, and audience. You are. This is your year to take charge of your learning and to do something to change the world. The “real world” is not some future place but is our classroom and you will change it starting now.

We will spend a lot of time the rest of the first week building culture in our class and establishing the need to be a critical analyzer of bias. I know the culture that I want to build with students, but this first day is all about setting up proper expectations.

My expectation of my students is that they will be passionate and want to be active citizens who make a difference in the world.

Once students understand this then I can’t wait to be amazed by what they decide to do!