Rob Miller teaches World History to ninth graders at South High. He’s in his 21st year of teaching.
What is your favorite strategy for the first day/week of school?
My goal, from day one, is to promote students’ interest in and enjoyment of doing history. A person’s desire to learn is natural. I don’t want to dampen a student’s curiosity by beginning with a talk on class policies, textbook details, or the school calendar. On the first day I have the students listen to a part of ten songs from the past 50 years and try to identify the year the song came out. By listening for clues in the music and using some prior knowledge, they are using a technique similar to what archeologists use for dating artifacts. A couple days later, I take the students to the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery to have them apply the technique with undated tombstones. Students need to be active learners, and in a history class that means they need to be historians.
No one’s been through as many first days of school as teachers. Read on and listen to teachers describing their funniest first day memories, the strategies they use to start the year off right and their advice for parents. For other stories in this series, see Please don’t eat the erasers; Singing, tombstones and tears; How to share an adult; Finding one thing to like; and More fun for students.
First day challenges: Crying and throwing up
Sara Amundson teaches kindergarten at Anderson United Community School in Minneapolis.
Do you have any memorable moments from past first days of school?
You never know if you are going to have a kid throwing up or crying, or already know how to read.
How do you handle children who are terrified?
For kids who are afraid — I take their hand and walk them on in. I set them up with a student who is doing something interesting — coloring or playing. I give them a friend.