The First Day of School
The most famous book for new teachers is The First Days of School by Harry Wong (not kidding) http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Days-School-Effective/dp/0962936022. I have read this book cover to cover multiple times. And a section of that book still sticks out in my head to this very hour is a picture of a teacher standing at the classroom door shaking hands with each student with a huge Cheshire Cat smile on his face. Now in no way am I disagreeing with that being a great way for a new teacher emulate, but if you want to set the tone for the year that this class isn’t going to be like any other math class that they have ever had then Harry Wong’s approach, while great, won’t cut it.
So, how do I take the approach a little differently.
- Classroom is completely pitch black with a PowerPoint on the wall just saying welcome
- Music is playing in the background (usually mysterious or dark i.e. Gary Jules “Mad World” or Death Cab for Cutie “I will follow you into the dark”)
- I am standing in the door way in the three piece suit not paying one ounce of attention to the students
- Some students will be very afraid, some will laugh it off, overs stay silent even though they are sitting next to their friends, some students act out, but unless a student is in danger of being bullied, I will not even look at them while they file in.
- The bell rings for their first math class
- I still don’t speak
- I don’t take role
- I wait for the lost children to show up late
- This is where all kids get quiet. The first late student I just stare. They will say are you Mr. Kent and I will barely nod my head. They will ask where to sit, and I will just give a hand gesture of anywhere in the room.
- While I am now behind my podium (all eyes are on my) I’ll clear my throat and while they are not realizing it, ill advance the screen on the PowerPoint.
- The number 2,000,000 is showing
- My first words to them are… Did you know that this your new favorite number? And I’ll wait. Then I repeat well it was your new favorite number. This is how many minutes you have until you wear one of these. (I advance the slide to show a green cap and gown for graduation). I finish this slide by saying something along the lines of this is all the time you have, so don’t let even one minute go to waste.
- My next slide I pick my voice up higher and lighter, much less James Earl Jones and more exciting and bubbly
- I saw Welcome. Welcome to the next chapter in your book of life. However, this chapter has a 2 million minute time frame and you will never be able to revisit it. So let me introduce myself.
- (next slide) I read it verbatim to them. I am Smart, Mathematical, Funny, Compassionate, Handsome, Talented, I am Mr. Kent, Who are you?
- As the kids sit there, I keep silent, some will talk. Some will say their name and then maybe some will break the mold and say I’m smart, I hate math, I like math, I’m pretty, and all kinds of other colorful things
- I then still don’t really pay attention to them lol very stern the whole time until this moment….
- I then leave my podium and look around and say I think you are afraid. WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF??????
- I leave a few seconds before introducing the quote of all quotes
- “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson which is sometimes wrongly accredited to Nelson Mandela but made popular by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie COACH CARTER (in POWERPOINT)
- After finishing reading that I usually am very soft spoken and let the words stay on the board and let it sink in.
- I finish the first day with a TED video from the internet. Usually Rives’ poetry. And end class with a discussion about hopes and dreams the kids have in high school
- No math
- No syllabus
- No names
- No bureaucratic non sense
- I make their math class begin, end, and “trying” to do everything in the middle different than anyone else in the world.
Ok if your still reading wow thank you
Like I said….. I’m different and I don’t have all the answers and I promise you I never will. But I also know that my students go home and when their parents ask how was your first day of school. Math class is mentioned good or bad The class is mentioned.