Good behavior leads to marbles. Marbles get put in a glass jar. If the jar has a certain amount of marbles in it at a certain time, marbles lead to doughnuts. Doughnuts are good. This was one of the first math lessons second-grader Todd Mefford learned with his fellow students. Bad behavior leads nowhere. Good behavior leads to sugar-induced bliss.
In the adult world, donut math gets much more complicated.
All across Grays Harbor on Tuesday, it was the first day of the new school year. Far from being a day where students can expect to coast, teachers and administrators across the county said the first day of class is a crucial part of the education process. The goal, they said, is to establish routines and a positive tone that will make education possible. Known in education circles as “classroom management,” it is a critical skill teachers must master.
Early Tuesday morning, Lincoln Elementary second-grade teacher Erin Fiskum gathered her students from the school’s playground, counted them and walked them into her classroom. Once inside, she gently began instilling “expectations” of how students would conduct themselves. She told the students how to store their new supplies, stopping to assist students who had trouble with her instructions. She told the children how to speak and how to listen in a class and even simple tasks such as where to place their bag lunch for the day. Although they may seem like trivial issues, the patterns make it much easier to control children and help them learn, Fiskum said.
The patterns are established by repetition and quizzing students throughout the class. The patterns help the students know exactly where they are for the day, Fiskum said. “So, by the time we sit down for say, math, they’re ready.” Failing to do so, would leave “very little time for learning.”
A successful first day, Fiskum said is one where her students, “Go home knowing what to expect the next day.”
Diane Golob, the principal of Lincoln Elementary, echoed some of Fiskum’s comments but added that a successful first day is about seamlessly introducing children from a home environment to a school environment. She wants the children to be both comfortable in the school and excited to be there.
As the students age, the focus on the first day turns away from making them aware of the day-to-day expectations to instilling a desire to learn that will carry them through the year. Administrators also said teenagers need to know that they have emotional support networks in place to help them.
At the high school
At Hoquiam High School, principal Brock Maxfield opened his welcoming assembly by rapping and cranking out at least one modified rock ballad. The reason he was willing to put himself out for his students was to get the point across that everyone at HHS is welcome and part of the family. He also wanted them to keep a positive attitude. “A positive attitude is contagious,” Maxfield told the students adding, “You need to be responsible for your own attitude.”
Maxfield closed the assembly on the theme of hope, “I walk the halls every day and I see students that have lost their hope. They have lost their focus. Don’t ever let anybody tell you, ‘you aren’t good enough’,” he said. “If you have a dream, go after that dream. You are good enough. You need to work for that dream.”