Saturday, August 16, 2014



From Building Grit, Passion Perseverance, and Purpose

There is only one first day of school each year. Think about it from the kids’ perspective. They don’t have many first days during their entire school career. It's a grand moment, with many cultural rituals attached. Don't you think the night before school starts is like New Year’s Eve for kids? (They can celebrate by going to bed early!)

My advice this week: Inspire the heck out of your students DAY ONE. Let them know you will be taking them on such an incredible journey that even Ms. Frizzle would give you a thumbs up.

     Inspiring kids is our most important task the first day of schoolother than guaranteeing their personal safety and their safe return home. Sure there are rules, procedures, goal-setting, team building activities, books to be handed out, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Don’t we want our students to be thinking “This is my best teacher EV-VER” and saying “I will do great things this year?” We want them to feel an overwhelming sense of empowerment. (Secretly, we know they are going to need it for what we have planned.)

Of course, the down side to our students being on fire and feeling like they can conquer the world is maintaining and sustaining this motivational tidal wave. We have to live up to our kids’ expectations for the next 180-200 daysdepending on school calendar. Is that so hard? Oh YEAHthinking Mount Everest!!!

Three Easy Ideas

For today, I have three inspirational First Day ideas (or the 2nd, 6th, or 22nd day). The first idea is just for YOU. I am most certain you have no time for enjoying teacher movies. I grabbed one tiny (under 3 min) clip of my all-time favorite inspirational scene from Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams pleads with his students, “Make your lives extraordinary.” (Sigh! So incredibly sad) In Robin's spirit, INSPIRE.

      Has everyone heard the starfish story? No matter how many times I hear the story it always resonates. When I began teaching adults, I always tucked it in somewhereas a gift, as an intimate moment to share between myself and the audiencean homage to teaching. It seemed natural to use it with kids, as well.

Early on, I began telling this story versus reading and realized the powerful effect it had.
The story structure and vocabulary were simple, the punchline dramatic, easy to ad lib, to pause dramatically, to tease the audience by slowly unveiling the old man’s response, and extremely adaptable to suit your purpose. Try it. 

Michael Jordan’s story would make for great, first day inspiration. Consider pairing a video clip with a brief bio and turn Michael into a permanent member of your classroom. When the kids are in need of a "rally the troops" pep talk, refer back to Michael's grit and ability to turn setbacks into opportunities. Asking "What do you think Michael would do in this situation?" is such an effective reminder to kids to give MORE THAN 100%.

From Building Grit, Passion Perseverance, and Purpose
I have more ideas, of course. They will just have to wait 'til next week. 

How do you let your students know this year is going to be special? It would be awesome if you shared in the comments section below.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate and respect your time and hope you found something you can use. For more inspirational ideas consider my teacher's guide Building Grit, Passion, and PerseveranceWishing you a powerful beginning of school and a very Happy Saturday. 


  1. Thank you Cathe for posting. The first 2 weeks of school have been challenging. I welcome your encouraging words. One of my goals in my Professional Growth Plan is to improve student engagement.

  2. Delene, I am so glad you shared that you are focused on engagement this year. You must obtain a copy of Ed Leadership's September issue. You will love it. Ask your principal or the curriculum specialist for a copy. Happy that you found the post encouraging. Best of luck!

  3. I loved what you had to say in this blog because I found it inspiring and it brought back so many memories of my first days of school as a child. It was both exhilarating and scary! A time of new beginnings with the smell of fall in the air and if you were lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher inspire you the very first day - that could set the tone of the whole year! I remember running home to tell my parents about the first day with my hair in a mess from running in the wind and bouncing up and down on our couch with excitement. This was so informative and inspiring and all the more poignant from the wonderful "Carpe Diem" scene from "Dead Poets Society". Thanks for a great blog and some major deja vu!

  4. Mary Ann, I am so glad this resonated with you. Your description is perfect. Somewhere you must have had an inspiring writing teacher. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond.