It’s Always Day 1

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, you probably remember your first day – the excitement, the nervousness and the anticipation that all made the day unforgettable. Leaders of large companies know the power of that first day too; particularly Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who attempts to extend that early energy by republishing his 1997 letter to shareholders every year since.

In that letter, Bezos says,

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death,” he said. “And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

It is rare to maintain that level of excitement and idealism, rendering the “it is always Day 1″ sentiment as much a challenge as it is a slogan, and a worthy challenge indeed, whether you are the CEO of Amazon or an inspiring third-grade teacher.

Luckily, there are more resources than ever to aid teachers in maintaining that precious Day 1 perspective of excitement, motivation, and anticipation. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Read great books on education.

A must-have for teachers dedicated to the deeper workings of education.

I was first introduced to Dan Willingham’s writing through the “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers. I was immediately hooked by Willingham’s ability to communicate complex topics in a way that I could not only understand, but that could translate to real-world applications in the classroom. Willingham’s book Why Don’t Students Like School is full of this type of profound, but practical, wisdom and a must-have for teachers dedicated to a deeper look at the workings of education. Reading books like his will reinvigorate your classroom, and I’m always on the lookout for the next great breakthrough book.

Here are a few I am reading now:

Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitch Resnick

Learner-Centered Innovation by Dr. Katie Martin

Connect with teachers on Twitter.

Weight loss programs always feature customer testimonials, and they are oftentimes very effective. Seeing someone – especially if that someone shares many of the same constraints you have – be successful in accomplishing a goal as big as losing a lot of weight, can be very inspirational. Professional learning communities are tapping into that same magic on Twitter, where visionary teachers are supporting one another in chasing big educational dreams. Want to get started incorporating technology into your classroom but not sure how to begin? Following individual teachers’ twitter feeds, as well as participating in Twitter Chats are two great ways to both connect with those currently confronting similar challenges and heeding the wisdom of those who have figured out ways to overcome some of the toughest problems teachers face. Don’t underestimate your own ideas, either – you’d be surprised at the personal wisdom you demonstrate when trying to articulate your own thoughts in a blog post or chat response.

Here are a few voices on Twitter I’m inspired by right now:

Kristen Nan @nankr1120

Shuchi Grover @shuchig

George Couros @gcouros

Heather Shadish @MrsShadish

Todd Lash @Todd_Lash

Steven Isaacs @mr_isaacs

Gino Luayon @ginoloko

Jeff Nelson @JeffNelsonTLI

David Geurin @DavidGeurin

Go to an educational conference.

Online communities are great, but there’s something special about making face-to-face connections with people. Not only will you learn a lot and meet people you might never have met otherwise – there’s a real benefit to stepping outside of your routine every once and awhile. Going to a conference allows you to operate beyond the everyday tactical items that dominate a traditional school day, providing a rare opportunity to focus on the big picture items, like maintaining your creativity and enthusiasm.

I’ll be attending and presenting at the CSTA conference in July. This is a great chance for Computer Science teachers to meet other teachers and learn best practices. I would love to see you there.

Other great conferences include:

ASCD – This year’s conference is called Empower 18. It will feature speakers and sessions that will focus on supporting the whole child and advancing student achievement.

ISTE – This conference provides educators with the opportunity to see what is exciting in the world of educational technology. ISTE also provides educators with the opportunity to experience hands-on and interactive sessions

Embrace change in the classroom.

Sometimes you need not go beyond the classroom door for inspiration. Keep that Day 1 energy alive by approaching your classroom as if it was the first day of school year planning again, and you’re thinking how best to maximize the time and space for the year ahead. Could you incorporate a new text that might teach a subject in an unconventional way? What about changing the seating arrangement in your current room, or embracing an attempt at flexible seating? Don’t be afraid to incorporate a new pedagogy that you’ve seen successfully implemented by another teacher – change can be invigorating. Get to know yourself well enough to find that sweet spot of change where you’re pushing up against your comfort level a bit – it can be a particularly powerful way to fight off the deleterious effects of inertia.

There are some cool classrooms from the Cult of Pedagogy blog that inspire me to challenge my thinking and inspire my willingness to take risks.