I am in full blown back to school mode right now. I’m trying to prepare some new back to school lessons and activities while also preparing my classroom for the students that are coming on Friday. There are lots of things left to do, but as I walked into my classroom today and found this small piece of paper on my desk I was reminded that the things that are said on the first day of school are some of the most memorable. (Yeah that was definitely a run on sentence but who stops for grammar and punctuation when sentimental feelings are creeping in?)
This small piece of paper brought a smile to my face and reminded me of something I did at the beginning of the year with my 8th graders that I need to make time for this year.
It has been my experience over the last 12 years teaching middle school, that these 11-14 year old students are really only quiet one time during the school year. The first day! Every year they lull me into this false sense of security that these new age middle schoolers with their clean clothes, fixed hair, and sweet smelling cologne and perfumes can actually sit quietly in a desk and listen for an extended period of time. If you are a new middle school teacher don’t be fooled, don’t be dooped. Day 2 is coming and with it comes a classroom full of energy, hormones, and two opposing foes that fight to the death for control of the room throughout the entire year…Axe Body Spray vs. Body Odor. These two formidable foes attack each other relentlessly during each 50 minute class period while also doing damage do my central nervous system at the same time…I digress. Back to sentimental.
As my students are sitting there on day 1 trying to figure me out, they are making eye contact and following me as I walk around the room. They hang onto every word I say that first day. They remember my kids names and things I like to do. For example one year I told them I played the harmonica. (Ok, I don’t really play the harmonica, but I always lie and tell them I do something really odd and hopefully kind of dorky. When they walk out of my classroom I want them to leave with a smile on their face thinking “he’s pretty weird” or “well at least I am cooler than the harmonica playing history teacher.” Plus, if a kid actually plays the harmonica or whatever random thing you tell them it’s a bonus. You’ve already built that relationship, however, you better start doing some research and learn how to play the Piano Man really quick like I did. See the video below! I stopped trying after this happened with my daughter.)http://makehistory.fun/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/medium-4.mov
Wait, I didn’t get back on track at all.
Sorry, sorry, I’m wrapping it up here. So, the little piece of paper? What’s the deal? I got side one thing that I told my students last year is they can never answer a question in my history class with “I don’t know.” I want them to take an educated guess, guess something that we’ve talked about, or a historical name they’ve heard. So last year, I just told them to say, “George Washington,” and they did! Sometimes they were right, most of the time they were wrong, but it got them to speak and I have to have be able to talk to somebody. When you spend your entire day talking about dead people you need some interaction with the living ya’ know?
“George Washington” is answered hundreds of times in my class throughout beginning of the year, but what I noticed about my students who are answering George Washington at first. By the end of the year they are answering James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, etc. they begin to take a chance answering other questions because they’ve already answered out loud and been wrong in front of their peers. We talk about failure all the time in class. I tell if not daily, weekly, “I hope you fail today,” because I want them to understand that it’s ok to fail, it’s necessary to fail.
It’s been useful to me and my students like having an answer they can fall back on and it might actually be right from time to time. So, if you ever end up in my history class all you need to know are two words.