The First Day of School

I know what you’re probably thinking. “I’m still on summer vacation!”, and you’re right, but if you’re anything like me, the first day of school can give you nightmares.

Now, if you don’t already know, I’ve taught a wide variety of students at different grade levels and ages. I’ve taught most grades between 6-12 at one point or another throught my 6 years of teaching.

I know that I’m definitely not a veteran teacher by any means, but I’ve learned a few things during my time in the classroom.

My piece of advice about the first day of school: DON’T READ THE SYLLABUS!

I did this my first few years of teaching and reflecting back I feel so sorry for my students. At the time I was just doing what I thought was normal, and you know what? I was right. The students would come in, (There would always be a little bit of chaos as they tried to find their assigned seat) from there I would hand out my syllabus, and I would read it to them AND if I was feeling super innovative I would ask students to read it to the class.

This would ways leave me with so much time left at the end of class that I wouldn’t know what to do with my students. (During ny first few years of teaching I struggled to figure out my pacing, but it’s all good now.)

This was my norm for the first two years and I was just dying (not literally), but it definitely set the tone for my students. They would always expect class to be mundane, and every day the same, and I felt like a lot of them would set their mind on autopilot.

After searching high and low one year for an idea, and idea, of what to do on the first day of school it finally came to me — group work!

Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that I hate icebreaker activities where you have to go around and say something that you like that has the same letter as your name, or come up with two truths and a lie, or anything else you could think of. I figured that I was scared and felt like I was in survival mode so maybe my students felt the same way.

I came up with a survival game for the first day, and it’s what I’ve been using ever since it was born via PowerPoint.

I break my students up into groups, I hand each student a list of supplies (all students have the same list) and they, in their group, have to decide what is the most important to surviving in the Sonoran Desert.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous the first time I did this, I mean, this could have gone either way in my eyes, but to my surprise it worked! The students are loved it!

This type of activity gave my students the opportunity to engage with each other after a long summer break, and it also showed me who my leaders and strong personalities were, and who my more quiet voices were. This worked, because it wasn’t a threatening environment, it was fun, and they truly enjoyed working together.

After the students were done organizing their list of 18 items we discussed what they “used” and “didn’t use” while being stuck in the desert. This was a great ice breaker because after each group had shared their picks our classroom discussion drifted into a deep thoughtful talk about perspectives. It was really cool to see students reach that level of discussion on THE FIRST DAY!

For this upcoming school year I’ve been mulling over what to do. I thought about switching from this activity to something else, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Will I switch eventually? Most likely. As for right now, I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.

Thanks for checking out my blog. To see what activity I’m talking about click here.

Have a great day and rememeber, be you, be confident, be amazing!

Thanks again,

Kelsey

Why I Teach.

I teach because I struggle.

I struggle with mental health. I struggle with balancing all the chaos that is life. I struggle.

Starting out in school I was never a good reader. I jumped from resource room to resource room until I was in about 5th grade. Reading just wasn’t my thing. It was hard and I never got it. During the spring of my 5th grade year I remember that my ELA teacher gave the option to attend a writing conference in a nearby town. My mom pushed me to “apply” for it; we had to write a letter explaining why we thought we should go. I reluctantly wrote my letter, thinking nothing would come from it. Little did I know I woukd be accepted and attend with my ELA teacher and another classmate.

I don’t remember much about the experience, unfortunately, but it must have had quite an impact because since then I’ve struggled to put both books and pens down. I love reading and writing. My mind is filmed with stories and ink runs in my veins. Without words, I’m not sure what I would do with myself.

When the time came in high school when the questions of “Where are you going to college?” and “What will you be majoring in?” became the sound track to my life I wasn’t sure what my response was supposed to be. I knew that I wanted to attend a local-ish university, but I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I had decided that I wanted to major in writing because being a writer had been my dream. My dad poo-poo-ed that idea in an instant. “Why? There are millions out there that try to do that. Do you know of anyone who does that successfully?” I was crushed. Truly. Little did he know that I would grow to know many published authors in my adult life; many are friends and former teachers, one is even a former student.

Again, I found myself in this horrible cycle of trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life, but yet I had no idea. It was like a whirling tornado of doubt that I just couldn’t click my ruby slippers out of. Seriously, where’s Toto when you need him?

My best friend in high school, Sarah, wanted to go into education; specifically English, and because high school is that time in our lives when we want to fit in the most that is what I decided my future would be; I wanted to be an English teacher. It didn’t take long after our high school graduation for us to loss touch. We separated ways after high school and we attended different universities. Her major changed. Mine didn’t.

As the new school year inches closer, week by week and day by day I find myself reflecting on why I do what I do.

I teach because I want to have an impact. I know that sounds cookie cutter, and cliche, but it’s true. Teachers tend to be givers, and soft hearted, I mean how can you not be when teaching is such an eye-opening experience? There are so many things about society and people that you are exposed to that other occupations just don’t get to see or experience.

I teach because I want to be the stable force in someone’s life who may have an unstable past or home life.

I teach because I want to be the silver lining to someone’s day.

I teach because I want students to now that it’s okay to struggle.

I teach because I want students to know that it’s okay not to be okay.

I teach because I love what I do.

I teach because I want to open minds.

I teach because I want to connect with youth.

I teach because it’s my life.

I teach because…well, I just do.

Teaching may not have originally been a part of my original game plan, or my end goal, but I honestly can’t imagine life any other way.

My name is Kelsey and I’m a teacher. I love what I do. Do you?