No day like the First Day

(I just found this on the internet)

(I just found this on the internet)

Well. It’s done. I have officially survived my first day of teaching my own class.

It wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but it wasn’t a complete disaster. I got to go through my syllabus in full, albeit at breakneck speed. I had originally really wanted to do a “Build our Syllabus” type activity like Dan Meyer did, but we were given only 20something minutes per class and I couldn’t find an easy way to integrate that. In hindsight I should have just played different name-game ice-breakers for 20 minutes because at least then I would have learned everyone’s name, but there was a strong focus on “Conveying expectations.” Unfortunately that felt an awful lot like talking AT three different periods of students and I don’t think any of us enjoyed it. But I left school today not knowing anyone’s name and it is freaking me out. These are students that I met at recruitment fairs, information sessions, accepted students night, home visits, and a barbecue. I’ve also been monitoring their summer assignments online. But matching names to faces to memories is a hell of a task for me personally and I feel like it’s costing me in student relationships. I imagine every student is like “Why doesn’t he remember me?!” and I haatteeeee it.

I have to be careful not to be too pessimistic. I made students laugh some, I think I imparted the important parts of the syllabus. One personal highlight: I introduced myself to a student I hadn’t met and he said “Oh, I’ve heard about you.” Is that good or bad? Is bad press better than no press? I don’t know, but it made me laugh.

But this leads me to change what I was going to do tomorrow. Originally I was going to focus on pairwork, but instead I’m going to spend the first half of the lesson just learning everyone’s damn name, and then shift into pairwork. There will be less math this first (well, second) day out, but if I don’t know their names I’m up shit’s creek anyway.  But I’ll make an actual chart-paper sheet of expectations for pairwork that we can model for the rest of the week. I’m going with the tried and true Handshake Problem just to get them thinking about math, and it’s a cheesy but effective segue into “Let’s meet each other!” And it’s not so intense that I can’t take a few extra minutes to set up some extra classroom norms.

My biggest concern now is that my stresses and issues show on my face. Any adult that bumps into me knows exactly when I’m upset and can usually figure out why. I think I’m pretty good at keeping it from the students, but I fully admit I could be lying to myself.

Anyway, off to make powerpoints and seating charts for tomorrow. Woo-hoo.


5 thoughts on “No day like the First Day

  1. OMG I hate the name thing too. I’m freaked out about that. I only have 30 minutes with my kids tomorrow (our first day) and I’m telling them I’m not going to learn their names today, but I will soon. (And then we do our activity.) Then next time I see them (next week… don’t ask…) I will tell them about how much I SUCK at learning names, and how that alone makes the first days of school terrifying for me, and I PROMISE am going to get it, but it’s going to take me 3 weeks. They have to give me 3 weeks.

    And then each time a kid raises their hand, I try to guess their name, and it’s hilarious because I get it totally wrong 75% of the time, and we all laugh.

    We all have this. It sucks. Then it goes away.



    • Thanks Sam! I appreciate the words of encouragement. I know I’ll get their names, I just feel terrible. Home visits were great but they’ve introduced this weird sense of guilt into every interaction, where I’m like “Wait, have I met you before?” But within the week I’ll know them all by heart. The joys of only 70 kids in the school.

      Good luck with your first week!

    • I do something like that with notecard nametags, but that’s actually a much more productive way of doing it than just their names. Thanks for the suggestion, and good luck!

  2. Matt-
    Three thoughts:
    1. Is talking AT them a bad thing? I like to set a strict tone with my classes on the first day and ease up as time goes on. Think about what exactly you want the tone to be in your class.
    2. The make your own syllabus thing sounds cool, but it’s hard and doesn’t always work. Instead, Sam gave me the great idea a few years ago to give an exit slip where they kids can comment on the classroom rules and such. Then, on Day 2, I “amend” a rule or two and they feel ownership over the class. Kids love it. We can discuss more in person…
    3. Take pictures! Remember when you did it in my classroom the first day? I had my new student teacher do it again this year. We went over the kids’ names using the pictures during our prep periods and had everyone’s names down by the end of Day 1! Plus, the pics are great to have on hand if you ever wanna put a kid’s pic in a slide or on the wall (like for student of the week?!).

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