Big Question #1: What is your opening “speech”?

One of the problems most new teachers face is classroom management. When I started teaching, what I really wanted was to sit in on several different classrooms on the first day. What did those veteran teachers say on that important first day to begin to instill the respect and order needed in the classroom?

Of course, we have our own classes on that first day, and most student-teaching gigs don’t start until after the initial procedures and essential expectations have been established. For this blog’s first big question, I’d like for teachers to post their opening “speech”, summary, or outline. What I’ve experienced is that what is best for one teacher is a blend of the things they’ve learned from several teachers, so every comment added to this site will help new teachers to develop a plan for their first day next year (because it is never too late to have a first day, even during the school year).

Bring on the answers! . . .


6 responses to “Big Question #1: What is your opening “speech”?

  1. An oft-repeated bit of advice I heard was “don’t smile till Christmas”. This (in my opinion) is not true. Let them see that you’re a real person who has actual personality and they’ll hopefully feel more connected with you – once you’ve connected, I think you’re less likely to have management problems.

    Second, nipping things in the bud is crucial. Don’t let things snowball until they’re out of hand. If a behavior irritates you, address it (calmly, coolly, etc.). Use the first few days as a great chance to set the foundation. If you stay on top of problems early on, eventually things kind of settle down as the kids understand what you expect of them.

  2. on the first day of school i’ll ask he student to write their names, hobbies and ambition. Actually I don’t really know why I did that but this is what I learn from one veteran teacher. May be this is to break the ice. ( this one is for the class I entered for the first time. After that I will introduce my self and tell them the rules for my class and the lab ( i am teaching science) I tell the students my expectation, and ask them what they expect from my class. That are things I said and do on the first day.

  3. I should start by saying that I teach middle school. It is what we like to lovingly call “that special time” in our children’s lives…
    I teach grades 7 and 8, and on the first day of school they start out their time with me outside. Before they are allowed in my room we go over behavior rules and dress rules, as well as my expectations.
    In a nice way I lay out that I am in charge and I am not their mother. I smile a lot and am very strict. We go over the three B’s (I don’t want to see your boobs/bra, boxers/butt crack, or belly button). We also go over how and why gentlemen and ladies don’t wear hats indoors, and we discuss how their lives will be unhappy if they come late to my class so they probably shouldn’t do it because I can and will make them cry in public.
    Then they are given instructions on how to enter the room, which they then don’t follow, so I stop them with the patented teacher phrase “I’m sorry, what did you not understand? Turn around, leave, and come back when you think you know what you are supposed to be doing.”
    Then I leave them outside to figure it out. They freak out for a minute, ask each other what they think they should do, look through the window, and then eventually come in the way I originally asked them to. Then everything runs remarkabley smooth.
    They get a tour of the room, they get their first writing assignments, they get lots of forms and lots of directions, and they go on their way.
    As I said, I smile a lot. I tell them that I am a big fat meany, but they don’t ever believe me.

    We do it all over again and again during the first two weeks of school
    The big deal for me is to make sure that the rules are few, they are clear, and that there is an understanding that I am the big dog in the room, always. Otherwise middle schoolers will eat you alive.
    I tell them my expectations for the year, which are that they learn to love to learn, among other things. I tell them about myself and my qualifications for teaching, and I welcome them into my arms and family. For the year they are my responsibility, my children. It is my responsiblity as a history and English teacher to work towards creating intelligent citizens for the United States of America, and I take that very seriously.

  4. Stephanie, I really love your description of middle school as “that special time” – I have such respect for middle school teachers – I could never do it!

    I also appreciate your smile, but be strict approach. I too think, as ehoffman said, that the “don’t smile until Christmas” is not good advice. Kids need to feel like you like them and if you can’t smile, then you must not like them.

    laily, I also had kids do an exercise with their names and interests. I was a science teacher and the rest of our period (ours was a block schedule), we did our first lab. It was probably on a middle school or even elementary level, but it got them into the mindset that they have to hypothesize and problem-solve in Mrs. P’s class. It involved fortune fish and soda pop preforms. I always enjoyed the thinking processes it revealed in the students and the kids got to take home the fortune fish when we were through so they loved it.

  5. The “smile but be firm” approach is what works for me. Yes, be accessible through that smile. It is very important. While doing this, also know that the expectations you set for behavior on the first day (along with the first few days) really do sink in deeply with the students. If they can goof around, it becomes amazingly hard to undo that even by the third week. So what I do is get them busy right off. I have them answer questions about themselves, and I respond to each one by class the next day to establish a personal connection (we are a laptop school, so they email them to me — but you can respond on paper too). I then give out a list of books that have ever been listed on the AP exam (I teach AP English Lit) and have them highlight all the ones they have already read. This leads to a great discussion of how this one year is not what prepares them for college English — it is everything they bring to the class as well as what they do this year. It is also a fun discussion prompt for remembering books together. Of course, not everyone teaches AP English, but I think this exercise can work in any subject or level. Bringing their past learning to bear right away on their current learning sets a great tone — one that tells them they ARE prepared for the class (gets rid of some nerves) while also saying that you do expect them to remember something they have learned before (sets a good standard). So, my top two are make a personal connection with each student and set the tone for the class with a focused activity. For older students, rules can wait until day 2 because you are actually setting rules by showing them you plan to have them actively engaged and learning right at the start.

  6. Opening day is all performance. I tell them the course is hard. I tell them I love math, but I know it’s hard for some of them, and that I’ll get them all through it. I have them fill out note cards with name, former school, last math class, grade, phone #, parent’s name, all that sort of stuff, and something interesting about them. I make sure a little arithmetic gets on the board so I can show off some mental math. I ask them to do lots of little things, easy things, so they get used to following my directions. I talk relatively quickly with few pauses, and move rapidly around the room. I smile.

    They should leave dazed, impressed, convinced that I care about them, convinced that they will have to work. There should already be a following-directions-reflex being built. And, at least that first day, the words and my movements should have been fast-paced enough to hold the attention of MTV/Sesame Street over-stimulated kids.


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