The first day of school is the best day of the year. Every September holds the promise of hopes and dreams of students, families and staff. Students arrive ready to learn, probably more than any other day. It’s the day to connect with them, have fun, and help kids feel successful so they look forward to the second day. Let’s face it, while the syllabus and notebooks are important, they are not the most scintillating topics for the first day. They can wait.
Sam Barringer, a student in our district, spoke eloquently at our opening breakfast event about the need for connections between students and teachers to engender motivation and engagement (he calls it e = mc2). The first day is the best day for making those connections and jump starting the process for really knowing your students’ hope and dreams.
I have a great suggestion for first day = best day activities. The maker movement in education is sweeping North America. The premise is that students use lots of 21st century skills when they make, including creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. To be honest, it reminds me of being a kid and having my mom teach me how to knit or cook. Or planting a garden with my dad. Or making scrapbook pages with a friend. Nowadays, these things are still great. But we have even more options that can happen in school. A low tech option is the Marshmallow Challenge. Videos are within the reach of every student with fun apps like VideoStar and iMovie. You can go even further with 3D printing. Tinkering, inventing and making stuff can be powerful learning and super fun.
Last week, I noticed tweets from Pam Moran, a superintendent in Virginia. She was tweeting photos of first day activities at Monticello High School in her district. That led me to the principal, Dr. Jesse Turner who was proudly showing off a duct tape bow tie made for him by students.
— IdaMae Craddock (@imcraddock) August 20, 2014
— Jesse Turner (@DrJesseTurner) August 20, 2014
These photos show that this isn’t hard. And look at the expressions on student faces. I know every educator wants to create those smiles every single student who walks through your doors.
What can you do to make sure the first day of school really is the best day? Please share your stories!