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Let's Get Started!


Kimberly Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of North Dakota, is a first-year English teacher at Valley Middle School in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Only one more week until the school year begins. I'm tired of talking about it. Let's just get this thing started!

I'll have to endure a few more days of talking about it though, because first we have to get through our 'New Teacher Workshops.' I'm glad I spent so much time working in my classroom the past two weeks. I'll be able to relax and soak up all the information from the workshops without worrying about putting up posters, arranging furniture, and planning lessons.

Speaking of lesson planning, I've struggled over what to do with my students the first two days of school. Day One involves morning team meetings, with only brief classroom time in the afternoon. That means I shouldn't plan on a whole lot for the first day! Then again, I don't want to shortchange myself and not have enough activities to fill the time.

The first full day has been very difficult to plan. Some professionals recommend teaching a solid lesson. Doing so leaves a good first impression on our students. Laurie, my mentor teacher, told me last week that students want to leave school the first day feeling that they've learned something. On the other hand, I've read that students want to know the teacher's rules and expectations the first day, too.

I also want to find time to talk with the students. Those conversations, in addition to going over classroom rules and procedures, may take up so much time there's no room in the schedule to teach a lesson!

Of course, we could also go through everything so quickly that there's down time at the end of class. I can't imagine that this would send a good message. I'd rather have too much planned!

For now, I've tentatively decided that the plan for the first full day will include talking briefly with each student as I take attendance, introducing myself, going over class procedures, and teaching a lesson. The lesson will be a writing activity; I'll talk to students about the importance of setting academic and personal goals for the new year, share my goals, and ask students to write about their goals. They'll also brainstorm ways of achieving those goals.

Will this activity make a good first impression? Will it satisfy the students who want to really learn something on the first day?

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Article by Kimberly Johnson
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