Starting Again: A New Year, A New School, A New Adventure, and a Few Icebreakers

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Come Tuesday, my new adventure at a new school officially begins as students pour into my classroom at Lanier High School. Last spring I announced my intention to change schools and take a new position. I’ve spent the last five days preparing with my new colleagues for a new school year, and so far almost everything has been amazing. I’m working with some incredible educators and administrators, and there is a certain excitement in the air around the school’s upcoming focus on academies and project-based learning. Pedagogically, I couldn’t be happier about what this year could bring. I’m mindful, however, of what it will take from me personally to step up and take on not just the role of teacher of students but also a leader of fellow educators. Even beyond that, my work with our local community will be critical to the growth and sustainability of my academy. I’m excited. This year will test my mettle and at times my resolve. I can already see, though, that I have people to lean on who are just as excited as I am. Inside today’s post, I’m simply going over what I’m using for my first day icebreakers as well as inform you, my reader, of what my academy is looking for since I’m hoping someone out there might have some great connections I could connect with this year.

Ice Breakers

I, like many others I’m sure, am not really a fan of most icebreakers. Rarely do they accomplish much more than elevate nerves and unease in participants. Names are relayed, but often forgotten. We convey a part of who we are, which is often forgotten just as quickly as the name. What I’m doing with my freshmen this year may not fair much better, but I think it will be an interesting and maybe eye-opening experience.

I’ve come up with something I call “What’s the Word” (because all icebreakers should have a catchy name, right?!), which may not be all that original, but I haven’t seen an icebreaker like it. Given, this probably works best in the language arts classroom. Every seat in my classroom will have a blank index card on it. Students will be instructed to write down their favorite word on the card. The word can be something they say all the time, something they think is quirky, something they’ve overheard, an old vocabulary word, or a word in another language other than English. That last part to me is key. I originally was going to write your favorite English word, but what’s the fun in that? Why suppress a first language one of my students may have? Once we’ve all written our favorite words, I’ll ask them to flip the card over and write in a sentence or two how that word relates to them personally, socially, educationally etc.? Once that’s done, students will get up meet someone elsewhere in the room, exchange cards and talk about their words. (I’ll probably have a few questions listed for them to ask to make it less stressful on them, but I haven’t devised them yet!) I’ll have them go meet at least one other student and have a similar conversation. If time allows–we only get 30 minutes the first day–I’ll ask students to volunteer and report out about their word, the words of those they met, and what they talked about. At the end of the period, I’ll collect their cards (they’ll put their names on them), and I’ll take the time a bit later to match up their cards with their school pictures in hopes this helps me get to know them quicker.

I’m excited to be teaching an “Examining the Teaching Profession” course this year with a few juniors and seniors too. For their first day, I’ll use index cards as well but instead of their favorite word, I’ll ask them to list three words that describe their favorite teacher. I’ll request they not name names to start out with. Similar to the other icebreaker, I’ll have them flip the card and write in a sentence or two a moment in the teacher’s class that stood out to them educationally. I’ll repeat the meet and greet that I did with the freshmen even though I’m sure several of the students will already know each other. After they’ve had a chance to talk about each other’s favorite teacher qualities and moments, we’ll report out some of the qualities (at least) and I’ll use that as an avenue to talk about what we believe a good teacher looks and acts like.

Public Service & Leadership Academy

I’m not too proud to ask for help. I’m leading an academy that focuses on the following pathways: public service and administration, public safety and criminal justice, teaching as a profession, legal services and law, and international studies. Pathways are really a series of electives that build on one another and are meant to lead to either an internship, dual-enrollment, or a capstone project by a students senior year.

I’ve been developing a few local relationships in the city of Sugar Hill with businesses and organizations, but I’m open for suggestions both locally and nationally that can help my students get connected with real world experiences and resources. If you think you might have a contact worth reaching out to that fits one of the pathways above, please by all means contact me: kjones@lanierhs.org.

To all my fellow teachers and educators out there: good luck and enjoy another year of a job I hope you love!

Cheers!

 

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