A perennial first day of school activity is the last-minute rush!
An elementary teacher should always assume there will be last-minute changes to her class list. It is very important that we are ready to quickly produce another name tag, or another label for a mailbox slot, or obtain another desk.
Because we absolutely do not want the last-minute child to be impacted in a negative way. It's not her fault that she was registered late, so she should never be labeled or branded as a problem of any kind.
Remember that it's critically important for a child to not stand out in a negative way. None of us - child or adult - want to be set apart from a social group and have attention drawn to us.
Think how you would feel if you walked into a conference room and had to...
That's a horrifying situation for humans who are naturally animals who like to run with the pack.
Even if a last-minute change makes for a stressful first day of school activity, it's worth it to make your classroom a perfectly-welcoming environment for every single child.
I discuss setting expectations a lot on this site. And my first days of school articles focus on working those expectations into your first week.
Sometimes we forget to prepare our students for the unusual situations, and fire drills fall into that category. But practicing for a fire drill is so much more than an emergency procedure...it covers all kinds of important activities!
It's a perfect opportunity to practice:
It's quite a list, and fire drill prep is a perfect excuse to practice all of them.
This practice session may also trigger one of the most-important expectation-setting tools you have available. It's simply called...
"Yep...Try it again!"
If children don't meet your expectation for pushing in chairs and lining up...reset and "try it again."
If they can't keep their hands to themselves and be quiet in the hall...back to the room, reset and "try it again."
This process of redoing things until they get them right reinforces to the students that they are part of a classroom with rules and procedures...and the sooner they learn my procedures, the more smoothly their days will go.
The third time they have to come all the way back to the classroom, sit down, stand up, push in their chairs and repeat the whole process they'll get the point...often because your compulsive rule followers will be reminding others how to do it properly.
Do I rule with an iron hand?
If you were to see the spontaneous verbal interactions while I'm teaching you would never think that. Children must be able to express themselves while learning. But...there is no need for them to express unique personalities while pushing in chairs and walking in the hall.
That's where my rules come into play.
Aside from the expectation-setting value of fire drill practice, there are a couple of real considerations:
1. Determine whether you have children who react to the fire drill siren with panic or confusion (or even seizures!). Loud noises can cause a lot of first day of school anxiety for children on the Autism spectrum who have overly-sensitive hearing. Your office staff will know of prior-year issues.
Your fire drill discussion may be a time to let these kids know they will be advised of upcoming fire drills, or that you will help them. For example, I had two boys in my room one year who knew to clap their hands over their ears, then put on headphones from my laptop table to cut the noise as they walked out.
2. It's also a good time to identify a dependable child (you'll know who after a few hours in class) to be the person who manages the fire drill clipboard, turns out the light, and closes the door on the way out while you are managing the front of the line.
All in all, fire drill practice is a great first day of school activity. And when a real fire drill occurs...your class will be more than ready!
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