Before You Start the School Year, Don’t Forget This Simple Rule

It’s tough.

Your first week of school is a doozy. So many new faces, experiences, and feelings. Not to mention that never-ending to-do list. You know. The one that somehow keeps getting longer and longer as you check new items off.

Where do you even begin?

Do you start the year with fun and excitement by sending kids to centers? Do you start the year with a strict set of rules and then ease up when straight lines and quiet carpet time becomes the norm? Do you jump right into content? Do you spend time making cute crafts for parents?

It’s overwhelming. But you can’t go wrong if you stick to this simple rule:

Be yourself.

You will run into lots of experts telling you what has to be done (I’m guilty of this myself). You will see thousands of amazing Pinterest crafts that you want to create to start the year. Then, you will have your principal’s expectations and the state-sponsored curriculum telling you what to do. Who do you listen to?

Listen to yourself. What works best for you? What lessons, activities, and crafts resonate? Put your own spin on things! Find what works for you so you love coming to work every day.  That’s the only way you’re going to get through the year with the same energy you have on the very first day.

Teach what you love. Teach what matters to you. Let your enthusiasm shine. Naturally.

You’re going to do great. You’re going to change your students’ lives. And the only way to make your students fall in love with learning is for you to demonstrate passion and love for what you are teaching. If you teach something with enthusiasm, kids will learn with enthusiasm. If you have to teach something begrudgingly, kids will learn begrudingly.

When laid out that simply, it feels like a scientific fact.

And I get that not every lesson in your guide is going to hit home. You probably flip through dozens of pages before you see an activity that really excites you. That’s a shame.

Not because it takes you a while to find the perfect lesson. It’s a shame because the district and your principal expect you to teach all the shitty lessons as well as the good ones.

That’s why I created Punk Rock Preschool. To give teachers hundreds upon thousands of resources so that you can pick the best ones that speak to you and your class.

So you can teach the things you love. The things that excite you. And the lessons that don’t give you that giddy feeling? Leave ’em.

They aren’t important. If you can’t deliver them with genuine excitement, don’t deliver them at all. Find the ones that do work and teach them with passion! Let kids pick up on your contagious enthusiasm!

On that note, where do you start the first week of school? Wherever you want.

The only rule that matters?

Make it matter.

Kids need a “why.” Without it, they are just learning “because you said so,” or “because they’re supposed to.” And these reasons SUCK.

If you don’t have a good reason for kids to be doing something, it’s time to rethink what you’re doing.

No matter the lesson, you should be able to make a compelling case to kids on why this will benefit them.  Why it will be fun. Why it matters. Otherwise, they just won’t care.

Here’s an example: If you teach about Outer Space, kids need to know how they can use this knowledge in their lives. To become Astronauts or Astronomers. To save the world from an extinction-causing meteor. To travel. To explore new worlds. To colonize planets. To hang out with aliens. To make history! That’s why we are learning about Outer Space!

Do you feel the excitement?

Great! But we’re not learning about Outer Space quite yet.

This is the first week of school. And in that first week, kids need to know why school matters.

Why should we care about school? Why is it important?  Why should we come every day?Why does reading matter? Why do we need to learn?

And most importantly…Why do we come to school?

Here is a list of questions you can ask students about school. Questions that will make them think critically about their education.

When you teach what you love, the “why” comes easy. When you teach things that feel natural, the “why” is obvious.

Find the questions on the long list below that resonate with you. You don’t have to use the whole list. You don’t even have to use half of them. You are your own teacher and I don’t mean to contradict myself by giving you a blueprint of your first week. I want you to do what’s most natural for you. Find the ones that feel like questions you would ask already. Ask them in your own way. Always be yourself.

And if you’re having trouble finding a good place to jump in… then I hope you find this list helpful.

First Week of School Questions
All About School
  • What is school?
  • What have you heard about school?
  • Why do we come to school?
  • Why is school important?
  • What does a great teacher do?
  • How should a great teacher act?
  • What is a class?
  • What is a student?
  • What is a student’s job?
  • What does it mean “to learn?”
  • Why is learning fun?
  • Why is learning important?
  • What happens if we never learn?
  • How much have you learned since you were a baby?
  • What does it mean to be a good friend?
  • How do good friends treat each other?
Goals
  • What do you want to learn this year?
  • What are goals? What are your goals this year?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? How do you get there?
  • What are some of your favorite things that you like to learn about?
  • What are some of your favorite things that you want to learn more about?
  • What should our class goal be?
  • Why is it important we reach our class goal?
  • What do we have to do to reach our class goal?
Doing Your Best
  • What does it mean to do your best?
  • What does “your best” look like?
  • How do you try your best? What is your best?
  • How can we know if we are doing a great job with our work?
  • Why should we try to color/draw the best we can?
  • If you’re not doing your best, does that mean you’re doing your worst?
Feelings
  • What are feelings?
  • What words can we use to talk about our feelings?
  • How are you feeling at school?
  • How do you feel at home?
Rules
  • What are rules? What are directions?
  • What are some rules you have at home?
  • Why are rules important?
  • What would happen without rules?
  • How can we make school safe?
  • What are some rules we should have in our classroom?
  • What is a schedule? How do we use it?
  • Why do we need rules?
  • Why do we need a schedule?
Reading
  • What are books? Do you like books?
  • What are some of your favorite books?
  • Do you want to learn how to read these books on your own?
  • Why are books important?
  • Why should we want to learn to read?
  • Why should we care about reading?
  • How should we treat books?
Content
  • What are shapes?
  • What are colors?
  • Why do we need to know the names of colors?
  • What are numbers?
  • Why do we need to know about numbers?
  • What do numbers help us do?

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