First Day Fails: Mistakes I've Made We All Can Learn From
Updated: Aug 18, 2018
Are you nervous for the first day of school? I've learned that it does not matter if you are a first year newbie, or on year 20+, everyone gets first day jitters. #Realteachermoment, I have never had the perfect first day of school, or even close to. Certainly wasn't the perfect first day my second year teaching, when a blister beetle (oh yeah, real thing) bit my toe the night before, and I discovered it had gotten infected after lunch. That first day was AWFUL, but you know what? Having the worst first day ever taught me to stop chasing perfection. I starting thinking, "hey, even if my day is not perfect, it can't possibly be worse than looking down and seeing 33 blisters on one little toe". It became easier to learn from my failures, and maybe you can learn something from them too.
My Fail: Getting Sick/Stung
It is really hard to teach with no voice, a runny nose, constant sneezing, and a headache from you know where. We have all done it and know how miserable it is. But those first few weeks, you want to feel strong and vibrant. Give your immune system some love before it takes a beating. My daily system? Emergen-C powder in my water twice a day, at least 8 glasses of water, cutting back on caffeine, going to bed early, and yogi detox tea! I keep that up during the first week of school, and add in constant use of hand sanitizer.
I also now always wear shoes when outside the week before school starts...what can I say, get bit by a blister beetle once was more than enough.
Takeaway: Take Extra Care of Yourself
My Fail: We Are Gonna Do ALL The Things!
I always have such big expectations for all the things I plan to do on the first day. Games, teaching procedures, getting students organized, tours of the school, more games! Then, everything I planned to do takes longer than I anticipated. I then get stressed about fitting everything in, I rush, the kids then feel my stress and BAM, I might as well be the conductor for the hot mess express welcoming all my students aboard.
Pick the few things you MUST do on your first day, and take your time doing them For me this year, that will include organizing their supplies, meeting with students one on one to set up their binders (tried to do this as a class last year...BIGGEST #teacherfail ever), going over rules and consequences, and reading aloud Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Wondering how I plan to meet with students one on one on the first day? I have back to school printables and Chrysanthemum activities for students to work on while I conference!
Takeaway: Plan to Do Less
My Fail: I am Tired, I am Hungry, When is Naptime?
Nope, I did not pull a freaky Friday with a kindergartener. That was me, multiple first weeks of school. I had not gotten enough sleep, planned any meals, or really thought of anything except for what I was going to be doing at school. Did my classroom look great? Yes. Did I feel great? No. Do yourself a favor, meal prep for the week the Sunday before the first day. And I do not just mean dinner, I mean breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Have water bottles ready to take with you; heck, slice some lemons to throw in that water bottle so you really feel on top of your game.
Takeaway: Meal Plan & Prep Your First Weeks Back
My Fail: Split Personalities- The Drill Sergeant and The Bestie
No smiling before Christmas was a common tip I heard from other teachers when I first started. What they were saying was, I could not be too nice in the first few weeks of school. So what did I do? I was loud and strict and tried to have this non-smiling face at all times. But, it didn't feel right or comfortable and I hated the lack of relationships I was having with the kids, so then I went too far in the other direction and made the fatal mistake of acting like their friend. Neither relationship, the drill sergeant or the bestie, worked for the students or myself. Now, I believe with every fiber of my being you need to start the year firm with your expectations and consequences. Let nothing slide. But you can smile, be yourself, and never raise your voice while strictly enforcing the rules. Have conversations that explain and lead to reflection versus shouting, "no name on your paper?! no recess in your future!"
Takeaway: Be the Firmest Version Yourself
Tanya's Fail: Ghosting Parents
I went to my work wife teacher bestie for her biggest beginning of the year fail and she gave me the GREATEST example. You'll likely see parents (or many of them) frequently the first week of school. Between "Meet the Teacher Night", the first day photo op, various open houses. You will think you are good with parental contact! If you do, you are joining Tanya and I on our #teacherfail from years past. Parents want to know you and hear from you! Make it a goal to communicate with all parents weekly, whether that be through email, website, or printed newsletter! Then, it's a great idea to make positive phone calls or send positive notes home to each student every month. That way, if you have to call home to talk to a parent about their child struggling with an academic skill or behavior problem, they know you see more than their child's struggle but all the amazing parts things about them as well. This year I am going to try out Bloomz! Do you have a favorite communication website or app?
Takeaway: Talk to Parents!
Well folks, I promised when I started this blog I would be authentic. Share the struggles, not just the successes. I hope reading my first day fails has given you ideas and helped you shape the start of your school year. I would LOVE to hear your #teacherfails and what they have taught you.
Lauren Mary Medlin
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