The First Few Days

In 9 days many schools will be back in session for the 2016-2017 school year.  August 22 marks a day of opportunity, excitement, and the first day of a new school year.

During this next week, teachers across the state will roll up their sleeves and complete final preparations in order to be ready for the day their schools come alive again – the day the students return.   How will you spend these last nine days?  What priorities will be at the top of your list?

Consider the classroom your students will enter on the first day.  Picture the physical learning environment and ask yourself these questions:

  • How complete are the decorations on the walls of your classroom?
  • How much space is left to fill with student-contributed inspiration and products of learning?
  • How are the desks or flexible furnishings organized?

Barbara Bray, on her blog Rethinking Learning, challenges teachers to think of the classroom as a community of learners as she asks teachers to:

Think about what it might look like to your learners if you…

  • left the bulletin boards and walls empty so the room was an empty canvas ready for the community to design?

  • had all the furniture in the middle of the classroom and had each learner help arrange the desks or tables together?

What is the first thing your students will see/hear/notice about their classroom?  What is the one thing you hope they will take away that day?

Eanes ISD Mathematics Teacher, Cathy Yenca describes the spectrum of how to start the school year and explains more on her blog.

The image below depicts the range of possibilities for the first day between teacher-centered (students sit, listen to classroom rules and what to expect over the course of the year while being reminded of procedures unique to each teacher) and student-centered (students work collaboratively with classmates to explore a content-related discovery to set the stage for the inquiry and wonder they will experience over the course of the next 9 months).


For inspiration about how you will spend the first few days of school, check out the links below.

  • scavenger hunt (within and beyond the classroom)
  • create a time capsule to open the last day of school


Finally, I encourage you to read the David Guerin’s 5 Challenges to Your Best School Year Ever.  Do you accept these challenges?  Do you dare teach your best lesson on the first day?  What would happen if you did?  What if you didn’t?


For macro-thinkers, I recently had the opportunity to review a new book published by Solution Tree called Activating the Vision: The Four Keys of Mathematical Leadership.  The authors provide structures for district mathematics programs to activate and leverage student voice in the macro planning, curriculum design, and feedback on lesson planning.  In what ways would your curriculum look different if your students’ voices were considered in the design and delivery of everyday planning?


Within Article II: The New Learning Standards of the Visioning Document, we recognize:

II. g Content standards should serve as frameworks that assist teachers and students in creating learning experiences that motivate student success.

Do we consider student voice and choice in creating learning experiences?  What better source of valuable information about our design and delivery than that of our students?


9 days from today, parents across Texas will ask their children How was your first day of school?  What will they say?  How will they describe your class?  How will they describe your classroom/their classroom?  What will they say about you and the year they hope they will have?

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