What will you ask your students the first day of school?

Quincy Elementary staff (the best school staff on the face of the planet, in my unbiased opinion) was inspired this week by Aaron Baker’s widely shared blog post titled “How Was Your Summer“. Mr. Baker reminds us that not all students have an amazing summer filled with frolic and adventure. So, we started sharing questions we ask to build relationships and honor our students their first day back to school. Here are some of our alternative first day of school questions:

  • Hi honey, can you remind me of your name again?
    • Note–this is the only question that is age-dependent. The older the teacher, the increased likelihood that this is the first question they ask students. Just kidding! However, we cannot dismiss the importance of this simple question and learning student names.
  • What are you excited about in our upcoming year?
  • What is one thing you would love to learn about or do this year?
    • Bonus–make a list of what each child says and surprise them sometime in the first weeks of school by reading a book that is on their topic or incorporate the activity they love to do.
  • Read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown to students and have students write a note to their teacher about what makes them important.
  • What are you curious about?
  • What goal do you hope to accomplish this year?
  • What is the most important thing for me to know about you?
  • Have parents write a “letter to the teacher” about the things they love the most about their children. Share them with the students.
  • Tell me about a time you were brave. Then, allow student sharing to evolve into a discussion about how learning through failure and mistakes is brave and expected.
  • Make an ‘experts list’ by asking your students what they are experts in, and then list things they can’t do YET. Refer back to the lists throughout the year.
  • What is something you’d like me to know about you?
  • Read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds to spark a class discussion on how ‘getting it right’ looks different for everyone.
  • What goal(s) do you have for yourself this year?

We think it would be great for teachers to model answering the questions to help students learn what their teacher values. Principals, you are not off the hook either–how about empowering staff by asking them to share the most important thing for you to know about them, so you can support them throughout the school year?

I had the honor to learn from Mark Wilson (@MarkWilsonGA) and Joe Sanfelippo (@JoeSanfelippoFC) the other day, and appreciated their perspective that this upcoming school year is but a dot on the educational journey of our students. They asked us how we might honor their entire journey by learning our students’ stories.

Thank you Mark, Joe, and Aaron for inspiring us to turn it up a notch in order to value our students’ journeys beginning the very first day of school.

What will you ask your students the first day of school?


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