Friday, August 16, 2013

The "lesson" I taught on the first day of school

One of my favorite parts about being back in the classroom (I taught K-4 pullout for gifted and EIP reading last year) is the time I have to talk about life with my kids. People say that teachers wear many different hats throughout the year... my favorite "hat" is that of counselor/problem solver/encourager.

Most kid problems seem trivial to adult ears because we've been there, done that, and know that everything will work out when Lucy gets her feelings hurt and has a complete meltdown over her friend choosing to sit with someone else at lunch. But to Lucy, in that moment when she feels like she's been rejected, her feelings are real... and it doesn't feel like it will be okay eventually. When you get down to it, kids really aren't that different from adults. We all want to feel important. And we all want to be heard.

So knowing that I would have these same kids for the entire year, I decided we would start the year off with a little inspiration and self-reflection.

I showed them this 3 1/2 minute video clip that my principal showed us on our first day back. I wanted all 85 kids (we rotate for each subject, so I teach reading to the entire 5th grade) to start their year with a purpose and realize that no matter what last year looked like for them, this year was a new year. I wanted them to reflect on what they wanted out the year. To imagine themselves on the last day and picture what they hoped to have accomplished- academically, personally, and socially.

The video talks about "being awesome." So after we watched it, I asked the kids,
"How can you be awesome this year?" 

Then I gave each them a sticky note and asked them to write down three specific and personal ways that they could be awesome this year.

After a few minutes of thinking, I shared my list to help them with their own:

How can I be awesome this year?
1. I can make each child feel like they are wanted in the classroom and that if they are gone for a day, they are missed.
2. I can be a better teacher than I was last year because every year I want to be a better than I was the year before.
3. As a reading teacher, I can help each child love reading a little more than they did at the beginning of the year.

After a few more minutes, I gave them the opportunity to share any or all of the goals from their lists if they felt comfortable.. And you know what I realized?

5th graders are smart. They are far more intuitive and reflective than I realized.

Some of the things mentioned were:
1. Be completely me
2. Work on being more organized
3. Try to behave better this year than I did last year
4. Get along better with my family
5. Try to be friends with everyone instead of just a small group of people
6. Try harder on my work
7. Start my homework right when I get home so I'm not so tired when I do it.
8. Be a better friend

Pretty awesome, huh? 

So I think it's worth asking yourself.
How can you be awesome this year? What can you do to make this year better than the last?

Happy weekend, friends!


  1. That is awesome! You are such a great teacher. And I am going to sorta steal this for our first day. Minus that annoying video. Sorry that kid gets on my last nerve.
    Have a great Friday!

  2. Fantastic post!!! I was an elementary teacher for 8 years and I'm sure I'll go back after my stay-at-home-mommy days are behind me. I love that you showed this video and got such great responses back! I taught 1st & 2nd grade most of my years and I think this is an activity that kids could do even in those grades! :)

  3. I wasn't sure what to expect from the video, especially after seeing the 1st comment- LOL. Space Jam...awwh, memories. In Jr. High my basketball team would use the soundtrack during our warm-ups.

    'Not cool Robert Frost!' Sounds like you had a decent 1st day back with your kids, hope your year with the 5th graders goes well!

    Have a happy & relaxing weekend!!

  4. Great post, Heather!

    I love number 5 on your fifth graders list especially. I hate seeing people left out and that seems to be a negative thing that people deal with throughout their lives. A good lesson!

  5. i love this video. i remember seeing it last year...such a cute, funny kid!
    i love that one of your students said to be friends with everyone instead of a small group - that's so wonderful to read!
    you're a beautiful person, heather. your students are lucky. <3<3<3