May 20, 2009 | First days | RSS 2.0
I know we’re wrapping up the school year… dreams of summer vacation… thoughts of curriculum revisions… worries of no paychecks for eight weeks… what better time to start thinking about the start of the fall term?
If you’ve seen a military movie that involves trainees, you’ve probably seen the drill instructor get on the bus and speak loudly and clearly things like “the last thing out of your mouth will be sir” (or “Drill Sergeant” in the Army), and the recruits are quickly formed up, yelled at, “forward, march”-ed, yelled at some more, etc. At Army BCT, recruits go through Red, White, and Blue phases, earning free time and privileges as they progress through their nine weeks. During Red phase, every aspect of the soldiers’ lives are under the specific direction of an instructor.
That initial contact with clear expectations and directions in vital in the formative days of a trainee. Imagine what our men and women in uniform would be like if the first thing their instructors did was play a “get to know everybody” ice-breaker. Granted we’re not training future warriors, but I think the principle is the same. Your classroom is a place of instruction. If you are good you’ll be able to make it fun as well, but your first job is instruction in your subject (and humanity in general).
When students arrive the first day, there should already be a seating chart ready and students should be directed to where they sit before the bell (none of this up-and-moving-around confusion). Your policies on everything from A to Z should be spelled out in your start-of-course handout and gone over. If there are procedures to follow daily like checking a certain section of the board for homework, getting books from a shelf, etc – start them on the first day. Discipline issues are dealt with quickly (although make sure you’re doing discipline and not punishment)
I have colleagues whose rule is “I don’t smile until Thanksgiving.” I think that takes the idea a bit too far – Red Phase at Basic Training is typically two weeks. It won’t be too long before you can banter with your students, but in the beginning it’s important to be a Drill Sergeant.