One cool thing about teaching is that you get to start fresh every year, either with new students or with students who have matured a bit over the summer, and might have forgotten your screw-ups and grumpy days from last spring.
My school starts this week, with teachers reporting Monday and students on Wednesday. No half days or registration periods, just straight into it. Several of us worked this summer on lesson plans for the first few days, so that students get the same message about classroom procedures and in-school deportment, but I'll be teaching real content by the second day.
Some of the students will be eager to return -- because they like school, or see it as their way up and out of difficult situations or (more likely) they want the two hot meals and are tired of staying home without cable.
Whatever their reasons for being back, they will all give us teachers this one fresh chance to catch their attention. We have to work for it, mind you, but we have this fleeting opportunity to turn some of our class attendees into students.
How do we accomplish this?
Relationship, Relevance, Rigor
Teachers call these the 3 R's. Another time we'll discuss, with a full dose of snark, why folks from a certain end of the spectrum are so concerned with "returning education to the three R's," when only one of the R's they're talking about actually starts with R.
First week of school is all about the relationships we build with students:
- Are we approachable?
- Are we fascinated/excited/bored by the subject content?
- Do we look like we're trying new things, or just dusting off the old lessons?
- Do we shake hands and greet them by name at the door, or point and call them "you" through the first quarter?
- Do we appear to have forgotten last year's in-class misdemeanors, or do students feel like they're starting already in the hole?
- Are we standoffish, or do we let them know enough about us that we seem like real people?
I'm not my students' friend, but I am friendly. That's a solid life skill for students to learn, that they can work well with people without becoming best friends.
Work starts this week, but it's like a new job every year.