Soon the hallways and classrooms will be bustling with the first day chaos of students returning to school. Some kindergartners will be crying and clinging to their parents, and some parents will be crying and clinging to their kindergartners. Elementary students will be vying for their teacher’s attention so they can tell them all about their summer. Junior high school students will be trying to act cool and nonchalant, but will be secretly shaking in their new shoes. The start of a new school year is always a time of excitement and anxiety for students. Will I make friends? Will school suck? Will the teachers like me?
This lead me to think of how we, as a staff, could create a positive experience for all of our students when they walk through our doors. What could we do to make our students’ first day back awesome? I found an answer staring me in the face when I read a blog by Michael Hyatt on the “How of Wow.” He poses five questions for businesses to ask themselves in order to create a Wow! experience for their customers. All I had to do was change customers to students:
1. What is the experience we want to change into a WOW?
– The first days of school.
2. How will the students feel as a result of the experience? What specific outcomes do we want to create?
– Every student will feel welcomed and valued and hopeful about the upcoming year.
3. What specific expectations does the typical student bring to the first days of school?
– This is where it can get fuzzy. Basically, students fall into one of five broad categories. One, this student will walk into your classroom, sit down, and faceplant on his desk and stay there all year, if you let him. Two, this student will use school as a back-up to social media. When she is not talking with her besties, she will occasionally look up, glance around, and then get back to her next status update. Three, this student will swagger into the room, slump at his desk, one arm slung across the back of the seat. He will look like he is daring you to teach him anything. Four, this student will quietly slip into the room, make no noise in the hopes that he or she can slide through the year unnoticed. And lastly, there is the dream student. This student will be bright and cheery, pen at the ready, and eager to do your will.
4. What does failing to provide a positive experience for students on their first day look like?
– No fuzziness here. For teachers, not smiling, not greeting students, being grumpy would certainly fail to provide a positive first day . For students, these kinds of behaviour will keep the faceplanter, and everybody else, planted.
5. What does exceeding students’ expectations for the first day look like?
-Smiling and greeting students at the door, calling them by name, asking about their summer, introducing yourself to new students, making sure they know where to go, complimenting students, answering questions willingly, planning engaging activities, showing enthusiasm, checking in with new students throughout the day. These are the behaviours that just might put a gleam of hope in Faceplanter, Social Butterfly, Dare You, and Quiet As a Mouse. Eager Cheery may flash a real smile of delight. And this is what we need to create for our students on their first day back.
So, when our staff meets over the next couple of days, we will be sitting down and deliberately planning how we are going to WOW! our students on their first day back.
But, I’m also thinking that these five questions can be used to turn many experiences into a Wow! one. First date, birthday party, vacation, the report your boss wants, the assignment you have to do, the blog you want to write, the art you want to sell…
What experience would you like to turn into a WOW? What was one of your WOW! experiences? What were some of the things that created that WOW! experience?