The First Day of School

I saw this list on another blog:

  • What do I do on the first day of school?
  • What do I wear?
  • Am I going to know what to do with unruly students?
  • Will the kids respect me?
  • How will I know how to teach a certain concept?
  • What will I do if a lesson doesn’t go according to plan?
  • What if I can’t answer the student’s questions?

Some of those questions are more problematic for first year teachers than others, but I think veteran teachers still deal with some of it. Harry Wong made a bundle on this whole subject.

And in truth, it’s a pretty good book for first year teachers, and a good resource for the rest of us as well.

I’m going to outline what I want to accomplish on the first day. This won’t be a lesson plan as such, just a list of the basics of what I need to get covered the first day. Now we are talking kindergarten here. For many kids, it will be their first day of school—ever. For some parents it’s difficult. Figure that SOMEONE’s going to cry. If it’s not some of the kids, or the parents, it will probably be you. Just kidding…… Can’t do much about the adults, I mean they’re adults for heavens sake. The kids though, generally if they are crying, will get over it quicker if you can get the parents to leave. For some parents, that’s a problem, they feel validated if they think their child NEEDS them…. At my previous school, parents had to leave the children at the gate, they couldn’t come to the room, at least for the first week or so. One or two crying kids can set off some of the others who otherwise wouldn’t have had a problem. Since the first day is pretty confusing right at first, I usually have something for the kids to do when they first come in. Usually it’s an educational video, or maybe paper and pencil at the tables. I haven’t given them crayons yet. Class typically doesn’t get started right on time the first couple of days. There are just too many interruptions. If you are prepared for them, it’s easier.

The Kids

Since they don’t have a CLUE about your expectations as the teacher, and they don’t know the procedures, if you have THINGS that they can get into, they might not see a reason NOT to do so. Generally they are thinking something along the lines of, “TOYS!!!!!” So initially, classroom layout is critical. In the past I have gone as far as to turn the bookcases to the wall or to cover things up with butcher paper. I will tell them that if they get into ANYTHING before I tell them they can, they will NEVER work (and I use the word work, never play) with those things……. Usually someone will get into SOMETHING, sooner or later, and when they do, I make a BIG deal about collecting that thing and putting it WAY away, out of reach, out of sight, out of mind. After a week or two, when they know the drill, and have the procedures down, things can be uncovered and/or brought back and it won’t be an issue.

Once everyone is in and gathered on the floor and kids have settled down, I start with a storybook, or I might start with one of the class puppets (I LOVE puppets from these guys), then move to the Morning Message. Usually Language Arts is in the morning and our reading program has a lesson for every day that we are in session, every single day. I might not get it in until the afternoon on the first day, but I have to get it in. And honestly? If I don’t get any actual teaching done other than the Trophies lesson, and the stuff outlined below, I’m OK with that. Here’s another teacher’s first day….The first day can be like that. It’s me getting to know the kids, and the kids getting to know me and we need to take the time to get off on the right feet together.

Sometime in the first day I need to do the following:

1. give them their name tags and take their pictures (one of the things I need pictures for is this).

2. Practice walking in line. ( I end up doing this off and on throughout the year. There’s something about 5 year olds, they can’t just WALK anywhere. They skip, they hop, they twirl, they dance, they run, they flap their wings, they TALK. You would think that they just discovered their voices, but it’s just that they discovered each other — to talk to….)

3. Do a tour of the general or common parts of the school, including the front office, the health office, the lunchroom, the library, the art room, the music room, the P.E room, bathrooms, and the playground. I will do this at least twice in the first week.

4. Practice what to do in case of a fire drill. We will do this at least 3 times in the first week. Our fire department is notorious for doing a fire drill within the first 10 days of school.

5. Be prepared to give them a small snack if needed, 6 hours of school is a LONG time for kindergarten at the beginning. As an aside, any time a child falls asleep in my class they are allowed to sleep. Their bodies know what they need.

6. Begin teaching about germs and hygiene, washing hands, using tissues and hand sanitizer. This is serious stuff, they will probably get more colds and other illnesses during kindergarten then they have ever had before in the same amount of time. For most of them this will be the biggest germ pool they have ever been exposed to for an extended time. And if you are a new kindergarten teacher, be prepared to get sick, you need to do extra things to keep your immune system strong for the first year or two.

By the end of the first week, EVERYONE is ready for the weekend. They, and you will be exhausted. Everyone will do better the following week and each week thereafter. One of the hardest things I found to deal with when I first got back into the Kindergarten classroom was time. I was always over or under estimating the amount of time a task might take. If something got done quicker than I planned, I had leftover time, If something took longer than planned, it cut into something else’s time. I kept ending up with these odd little blocks of time, I needed lots of ready at hand fillers to take up the odd 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.

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