Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dawdlers or Doers? Reflections on the First Five Days

Even though it seems too early to be thinking about returning to classes, (like hated Christmas retailing in  July), there were many interesting conversations about the importance of the first five days at BLC this summer (Building Learning Communities conference with Alan November's team in Boston) in the new academic year. Students return after a long summer break anxious and excited about the beginning of new challenges.  Who will be their teachers?  Will they like them? Who will be in their classroom groups?  What challenges will they face? 

Alan November encouraged BLC participants to think about how we planned to use this precious time.  First impressions are crucial in setting the tone for the rest of the year.  Both teachers and students can have some preconceived notions of each other and the first five days is a perfect opportunity to challenge those assumptions.  One of my favorite "1st 5 days" activities is to ask four questions of students:

 1- What kind of learner are you?
 2- What do you expect from this course?
 3- What do you expect from yourself?
 4- What do you expect from me?

 I love to read what they expect from me; typically they want me to be fair, encourage them and be understanding.  What they want from themselves is also revealing; to try my best, not procrastinate and always be learning.  

But I need add, change, scrap that list of questions and replace it with their questions.  What if they asked (and answered) their own questions about their new course?  What would happen if I stepped out of the way and let them design the questions?  We will need to revisit the answers several times before the end of the course to see if their needs are being met and if we need to ask completely different questions.  

In this video Greg Whitby and Ewan McIntosh remind teachers and administrators that the time to get serious about change has arrived and it is NOW.  We need to think about this as we prepare to meet our new students  at the beginning of the year.  Ewan McIntosh says it succinctly; don't wait for permission to do it differently.  Listen to the video and see how you will answer Ewan's question about being the 'dawdler or the doer'.

First Five Days: Day 3 from Alas Media on Vimeo.

 (Find more great ideas about the "1st 5 days" on twitter with the hashtag #1st5days.)

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