Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back to School...Like a Pirate

"Weigh Anchor!" 
Get the year started right by setting the tone for the kind of journey you are about to embark upon. I want my students to leave my room on that first day, and every day-ideally, filled with excitement and curiosity for what will come next. I want them to go home and start checking stuff out online because they want to learn more. When their parents ask how their first day went, I want them to be gushing with enthusiasm over how much fun school is. I am pretty sure that having a lecture about rules is not going to incite any exuberance about school. I know I don't want to come back to my first day of staff development to listen to a lecture about what I am not allowed to do. Before my first day, I am incredibly excited about the possibilities of all of the new things I am going to do. What better way to crush this hope than sitting through a forty five minute lecture about what you can't do?

Pirate code of conduct: 
"I can't wait to go back to school and learn the rules!" said no kid, ever.

I can't fake excitement about rules during a lecture, so I made a slideshow of memes that illustrate some of my pet peeves. After all, I teach middle school, by this time they have heard the similar versions of essentially the same rules at least six times already. I don't want to beat a dead horse and risk being "that teacher". Speaking of "that teacher", I have them create memes for how they expect me to behave as well...what's good for the captain, is good for the crew, right?

"Walk the Plank!" 
Early in my career, I was advised by a veteran teacher, "It's best to start off 'mean' and get 'nice' later. If you start off 'nice' and the class is out of control you can't change to being 'mean'." I am paraphrasing here because this was about fifteen years ago. I'm sure the teacher didn't say "mean", but that was the gist of it. I am ashamed to admit that I payed it forward and shared that wisdom with a new teacher a year or so later. It's been so many years that I don't remember now who I gave that advice to, so I am publicly walking the plank now. My new advice: go read "Create Culture First...Not Rules" on Don Wettrick's blog. There are so many better ways to start the school year! If you have more than five minutes to spare, go through my Storify of the #tlap (Teach Like A Pirate) chat all about back to school, there are tons of great ideas in there.

"Fire in the hole!"
I'm embracing the nickname given to me by a student, Ms. Marshmallow, and I'm going to kick off our adventures in middle school with a marshmallow challenge. I've got my "Stay Puft" beanie and Ghostbusters marshmallow poppers ready. We do a lot of collaborative work in my class and I want to teach them my expectations for their behavior through experience and discussion.

So scupper that lecture and start your year off right!

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