Back to school!

August 24th, 2012

We are starting a week-long series today centered around the issue that must be occupying all of your thoughts these days: back to school time!

We asked several Stenhouse authors about  their back-to-school rituals — whether it’s selecting reading for the first day of school, laying the groundwork for building a community of learners, or stocking up on supplies.

Share your back-to-school rituals in the comments section during the coming week and five commenters will be selected to win a free Stenhouse book.

Let’s get started today with Erik Palmer, author of Well-Spoken and the upcoming Read & Watch book, Digitally Speaking. Here is how he gets to know his students:

When my sixth-grade students walked in on the first day, all the desks, tables, chairs were pushed into a jumble in the middle of the room.  From kindergarten on, the first day meant coming into a beautifully organized room, looking for the neatly lettered name card that identified their desks, and fitting into the system the teacher had created.  I wanted to break that mold.

When students came in, they were asked to stand around the sides of the room.  I introduced the three class rules and the only three rules: Be ready, be respectful, be responsible.  I explained.  Be ready includes having all your needed supplies as well as being ready to learn.  Be respectful of each other, each others’ belongings/beliefs/styles and so on.  Be responsible for your actions and behaviors.  Everything fits in to these three.  Do we need to raise our hands to talk?  Yes, that is part of respect for each other so we don’t just blurt out and cut off others.  Do I have to turn in homework on time?  Yes, you need to be responsible for doing what you are supposed to do.  Do we need to raise hands to go to the bathroom?  I respect you enough to let you make the decision about when you have to go.  I will only step in if the rules are not followed.

“Now that you know the rules, set up the room in such a way that they are not broken.  Should you sit with your best friend?  Can you be responsible for controlling the urge to talk?  Would you do things that might distract others and not be respectful of their chances to learn?  Should you sit at the back of the room?  Is that a place where you can be ready to learn?  Should our room be in rows?  Table groups of 4 desks together?  A circle to create more interaction?  All of the decisions are yours.”  And then I’d sit back.  You learn a lot about your new students watching the discussion.  Who are the leaders?  Who are the good friends?  Who are the risk takers?  Who are the students who always want to know the “right” answer?


Entry Filed under: Leadership & Mentoring

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracy  |  August 29th, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    One word: wow.

  • 2. Judi  |  September 8th, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    This is such a great idea it almost makes me want to come out of retirement and start a new school year with my own class.

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