Heavily influenced by my summer of professional development reading*, I committed myself to trying something new on the first day of school after eight years of doing it exactly the same way. It was slightly exhilarating, but not too nerve wracking to know that nothing that I usually do was done as the hours marched on towards the first day of school. Was I brilliant or was I insane? As it happens, I read this list later and I am happy to report that I adhered to it pretty well, though I only read it after the fact.

I arranged my desks in groups of four, the way the usually finish at the end of each year. There was no assigned seating, and therefore no seating charts to post. Now I had a blank in-class bulletin board without a job. I did not post a welcome sign on the door with further instructions as to what to do when one is tardy; nobody ever read that anyway. I did not decorate my room with laminated calendar pictures, thinking maybe it would be nice to offer the students the option to decorate it at some point instead. After all, it’s their room.

As the students entered the room on the first day they had puzzled looks on their faces, “Where do I sit, Mis?” “Can I sit anywhere, Mis?” “Really? Are you sure?” Once seated, I ran through a quick PowerPoint (I know, I should be ashamed) with these major topics:

Year 9: Day 1 Themes, August 2015
Year 9: Day 1 Themes, August 2015

So how did it go? Based on the faces of the students as I talked about these themes, I would say it went very well. They certainly seemed pumped to discuss and commit to paper what they thought our biology class should “Look like, sound like, and feel like.” I can’t wait to look at those posters, but for now, I am at home and they are at school. It was a busy week considering it was only three days! As a last minute epiphany for a blank bulletin board, I asked for anonymous Post It note feedback and here is what some of the students had to say:

Year 9: Day 1 Student Feedback, August 2015
Year 9: Day 1 Student Feedback, August 2015

In conclusion, if you have yet to start your school year and you want to work on relationship building, I highly recommend trying at least some of the ideas in the linked list. Further inspiration for positive changes can be found in the following books.

*Summer PD Reading List

Burgess, D. (2012). Teach Like A Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life As An Educator

Fleming, L. (2015). Words of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School

Juliani, A. J. (2015). Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL to Drive Student Success

Pink, D. (2011). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us