180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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First Day of School – First Impressions

August 15, 2012 , ,

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” -unknown

The buses unload the students, the halls fills with teens dressed in new clothes talking excitedly to friends, and I get that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know when I walk into my classroom that all of the students will be looking, listening, and forming that first impression of me, their 8th grade American History teacher. Just the thought of it can unnerve even the most seasoned teachers. So, what do I want that first impression to be? Do I want to be seen as a strict and serious teacher? A funny and lighthearted teacher? A caring and compassionate teacher? All good choices but they are not for me. I decide to take control of my own first impression and I want to be seen as a creative and passionate teacher. I want to grab their attention in a way that makes the students think, “I can’t wait to come back tomorrow.”

The bell rings, I walk into the classroom, the students take their first look at me, and then I speak. I introduce myself and then launch into my “first day of school speech.” No, I do not talk about classroom rules, expectations, or procedures. I do not hand out textbooks or go over the supplies they need for my class. There is time for that later. Instead, I simply answer the question, “Why do I love history.”

It may appear that answering such a simple question could be a predictable and lackluster way to start a class. Not the way I do it. My answer is the following, “I love history because of ice, a coconut, and a flag.” I take my students on a journey through my grandfather’s time in the Pacific islands during World War II. How he learned that the most valuable object to trade in the jungle was ice, how to catch a monkey for pet (has to do with the coconut), and missions that were not for the weak of heart. I talk about how my grandfather made World War II a story about people. He made me a lover of history. I then finish my speech by talking about the secret souvenir from the war I discovered one Fall day in 2003 in my grandfather’s basement. I open the eyes of my students to the fact that history is alive. It is not just boring facts but a rich story of regular people, like you and me.

Does it work? Yes. I have given this same speech for the five years I have been at Lincoln Jr. High. I still have students tell me they will never forgot the moment I pulled a Japanese flag out of an army hat.

By: Tara Thornton, History teacher, Lincoln Junior High

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My daughter, Megan Cooper, really dislikes social studies classes and came home the first day of school with a different outlook on the subject. She told me about how you told your story in class and her comment was, “I think I might actually be able to like this.” Thank you for helping my daughter open her mind to your class at the beginning of the year, so she is not approaching this subject with a negative attitude.

Stephanie Royer

August 23, 2012

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