I went through K-12 a long time ago. I have commented before that even though my class sizes were large – 35 kids was not unusual – I got a very good education.

Today, it’s different. Today, teachers have much more to teach and too many tests to conduct and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for fun stuff.

But for teachers who can manage it, here are two first- or second-day things teachers did in my elementary school days that were so powerful I still remember them six hundred years later:

  1. In the fourth grade, my teacher, Arlene Feldman, carved out a chunk of time going around the room asking kids what they did over the summer. Some traveled, some had little jobs, some just played. But some of the stories were a launching pad for discussions.
  2. In the sixth grade, my teacher, Mervin McLeod, told the class of 35 or so kids that he would know all of their first names in less than 15 minutes. We responded with the 60’s equivalent of  “No way, dude.” Then he told us what to do: Starting in the front row, the first person would say his or her name. The next person would have to say the name of all the people before him, then his or her own name. So, for example, if you were no. 19, you would have to recite 18 first names, then your own. “I will go last,” he said. The result was amazing. As the pile of names grew everyone got excited waiting for someone to blow it. No one did – not even the last kid – and McLeod got all 35 names correct.

The strategy of both exercises was to bring the class together and it worked. We became a team of students, not just kids passing through.

Maybe teachers are doing stuff like this, maybe not. But if they can carve out some time for either, or something similar, there are long-term rewards.

Steve Smith