School started in Wisconsin last week Tuesday and with that comes the work to establish expectations. If you haven't read Dave Burgess's book Teach Like a Pirate and explored his first week of school activities, you should take a look at how he begins his year. He helped me transform what I did my first week of school and how I approached establishing expectations in my classroom.
After I read his book, our district went 1:1 with BYOD Bring Your Own Device. When I asked about expectations for students I was told, they are expected to bring their own device to class. We didn't have any conversation about the use of facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat etc. I had to set my own classroom expectations for students in regard to how we would use their devices which were almost always phones.
Having just taken the Teach Like A Pirate plunge into the deep end, I was excited about trying Dave's activities. It was a new way of approaching the first days of school. It was a break from the reading of the syllabus, handing out books, rules and regulations that students were accustomed to on the first day for all 7 classes. I thought about my students' experience during those first days and wanted to do something markedly different. But beyond that I was energized to do something I hadn't done enough of or well in the past which is build community.
So after I engaged my students in the first few days of school awesome activities that Dave lays out, I decided to look at expectations, and what better expectation to start with than our new BYOD policy. In the past I would have laid out expectations, what was acceptable, what wasn't and how we would deal with those. This time I thought what would happen if I didn't create the expectations, but allowed the students to do this with me. I was hoping to let them feel connected to the process and have a sense of ownership in the classroom through this activity. I created a Padlet where students outlined why we should use the devices, what and when was acceptable use, and what was non-negotiable and never acceptable. This lead to great conversation and less work on my part. The students came up with uses for the devices I hadn't thought of, and had ideas for checking each other's behavior. I put it on them to self govern or they faced losing the ability to use the devices.
What resulted for me was more freedom to teach. I wasn't worrying about students texting in their laps, or trying to hide things. I was able to focus on what we were doing in class. I also extended freedoms to students through the trust we had built together. Students were treated like individuals and young adults. There were times when they texted classmates who weren't at school to connect on assignments, to check in on projects. They texted parents when they needed something from home, or when a game or practice was changed or cancelled to arrange pickup, or drop off of gear etc.
I found myself reflecting on the idea of expectations this week because I had the opportunity to work with an amazing 3rd grade teacher again this year. I think she and her students are incredible. She allows students autonomy and pushes them to be independent thinkers, problem solvers and they always become those rockstar students and people. A few of her colleagues commented that she has great students, and while I agree, and think the same of all of our students, she doesn't magically get great students day 1. I was in her class this week and while working with students on an all about me video project using WeVideo and voice overs, I realized an important lesson. When I left her class last year, her students were 4th graders, they had learned her expectations, they earned the privilege to work on projects on their own and create amazing products of learning as a result of all of her hard work. This week I came into her class and was faced with 2nd graders. They entered this class needing her guidance to obtain the skills necessary to meet her expectations. I don't call them 2nd graders to disparage them, but rather to emphasize the idea of how different the students are from the beginning of the year to the end because of what she does early in the year to establish expectations, nurture their creativity and demonstrate love and compassion for all of her students.
I share this example because the front loading of expectations, the work that goes into setting up routines and procedures pays huge dividends. I often got caught up in the panic of too much content to teach and made minimal effort to establish the positive culture that comes through the work of establishing classroom norms and behaviors. The efforts that come through getting to know students and meet their needs pays off in ways we can't even imagine.
This leads me to this week's topic - Expectations! We are going to not only look at the expectations we have, but also the expectations students and others have for us.