Today was my first “first day” of teaching in almost 10 years after returning to education. A few thoughts from today.
1. Flexible Seating Works
I’d read about flexible seating over the summer and wanted to give it a try. I brought two chairs from home and free up shelf space for “standing desks.”
With a small discussion of expectations, students naturally ebbed and flowed from their “home desks” to other areas. They regulated each other and were responsible in talking to me 1:1 if they thought someone wasn’t following the guidelines. Flexible seating is one element that made today a great first day for my students and I.
2. Proximity and Soft Talk
As much as I’d intended to not shout over disruptive groups or individuals last year, at times, I did. To me, I’d failed to model appropriate behavior and leadership. This year, I’m getting into close proximity, kneeling down and lowering my voice for students who need a reset, reminder or redirect. This was successful today and removed any perceived conflict, competition or embarrassment from the student perspective. I felt like a better model and leader.
3. Questions. Questions? Questions.
Students had three options during writing for their “guided free write”: 1) Write about their summer experience, 2) Create a story based on their upcoming year of 5th grade, 3) Student choice. After a brief discussion of story elements, they began formulating and writing their thoughts. I circled the classroom to check in with students and for each student who “didn’t know what to write” I asked them questions, rather than give them advice, ideas or insight.
“Who are the characters in your story?”
“Where does this take place?”
“Why are your characters behaving this way?” “What motivates them?”
“What is the problem that they are trying to solve?”
For each of my students, I asked, then sat silently, looking and waiting, while they searched the realm of their mind for the ideas that fit their inspiration. Sometimes that silence hung and when it was clear that the struggle was too much, I’d rephrase, or follow with a question I knew for which I knew they had the answer to generate confidence and momentum.
Questioning our students is nothing knew or groundbreaking, but I was reminded to the power and impact on student outcomes and thinking when done well.
Today was a great first day. I’m fortunate to have a kind group of students who give ample amounts of effort. I look forward to getting back in the classroom tomorrow and building off of today’s effort.