What New Research on Teens and Social Media Means for Teachers

Understanding your students’ social media lives is essential.

September 10, 2018
Jeff Knutson SENIOR MANAGER, EDUCATION CONTENT

Common Sense Education
CATEGORIESResearch & Studies

As teachers, we all have assumptions — and likely some opinions -– about teenagers and social media. But are those assumptions correct? Well, now we have research to help us find out. This week, Common Sense is releasing its latest research report, Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences, a deep dive into the social media habits of American teenagers.

This research is the second wave in an ongoing study tracking teens’ attitudes about social media; we released our original report in 2012. Back then, Snapchat was just a fledgling start-up, and Facebook was a top choice for teens. But how — and how much — teens use social media has evolved almost as quickly as the technology itself. This year’s report doesn’t just tell us about teens today; compared with our original data, it shows us just how much things have changed.

It might seem like teens are using social media more than ever (it’s true — they are!). Teachers work with teens every day, so it makes sense that we have our own opinions and anecdotes about their social media use. But it’s important to remember that our personal perceptions about social media might not always reflect what our students experience online. And that’s why this research is so important. The results of this latest study help us question our assumptions and start addressing real issues that help our students.

Here are four ways our latest research can inform your teaching:

1. Understand your students’ social media lives.

Culturally responsive teaching helps students better connect with what they’re learning. Because social media is such a huge part of teen culture, we need to know how our students are using these platforms, the types of experiences they’re having, and how they feel about it all.

Here are a few, high-level findings to mull over:

Teen Social Media Platform PopularityTeens’ social media use has increased dramatically. Today, 70 percent of teens report using social media more than once a day. In 2012, that number was 34 percent.

Most American teenagers have a smartphone. The number of teens with a smartphone more than doubled since 2012, from 41 percent up to 89 percent. Looking at only 13- to 14-year-olds, 84 percent now have a smartphone, and 93 percent have some type of mobile device such as a tablet.

Facebook is out. Instagram and Snapchat are in. But you probably already knew this. One 16-year-old participant, when asked in the study whom she does communicate with on Facebook, replied, “My grandparents.”

No matter our personal feelings about social media, these platforms aren’t going away anytime soon. As with any digital tool, even if we aren’t experts ourselves, understanding where our students are coming from can make our guidance beneficial.

2. Listen to what students say about their social media experiences.

Sure, kids are using social media more than ever, but they’re also recognizing some of the consequences, including digital distraction in the classroom. Listening to students’ perspectives gives us insights into how we might help them harness the positives and avoid some of the pitfalls. Here are some details worth reading:

Teens use a lot of social media. Again, you probably could have guessed this, but our data backs it up.

Teen Social Media Use

Teens also recognize that social media is a distraction.

Teen Communication PreferencesFifty-seven percent agree that using social media often distracts them when they should be doing homework. Think about that the next time you assign homework online. And 54 percent of teens agree that social media often distracts them when they should be paying attention to the people they’re with. Overall, teens’ preference for face-to-face communication has fallen, while more and more teens are choosing social media and video-chatting as a favorite way to communicate.

Many teens seem to recognize that social media platforms are designed to keep them hooked. Seventy-two percent believe that tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on their devices.

Nevertheless, many teens say that using social media has a positive effect on how they feel about themselves. Across every measure in the survey, teens were more likely to say that social media has a positive rather than a negative effect on how they feel (though most say it doesn’t make much difference one way or the other).

Importance of Social Media

3. Recognize the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL).

Common knowledge tells us that teens’ social-emotional well-being is important to their overall health and ability to learn. But, as our study reveals, it also has a big impact on how teens view their interactions on social media. This point is somewhat nuanced, but the implications for educators are significant. Some important key findings to consider:

Importance of Social Media by SEWBSocial media tends to have a heightened role — both positive and negative — in the lives of more vulnerable teens.

Our survey included a social-emotional well-being (SEWB) scale based on concepts such as happiness, depression, loneliness, confidence, self-esteem, and parental relations (for more information on methodology, read the full report). Teens who ranked lower for SEWB are much more likely to say they’ve had negative experiences on social media, from feeling bad about not getting likes on their posts to feeling left out or excluded.

Disturbingly, more than a third (35 percent) of these teens say they have been cyberbullied, compared to 5 percent of teens who ranked higher for SEWB. Nevertheless, these more-vulnerable teens are still more likely to say that, overall, social media has a positive rather than a negative effect on them. For example, they’re much more likely to say it makes them less depressed and less lonely. And …

Social media is an important avenue of creative expression for many teens, especially for those on the lowest end of the social-emotional well-being scale.

Teen Experiences on Social Media

These findings may be one of the most important for teachers, administrators, and school counselors to consider: For some students — especially those who struggle with their social-emotional well-being — the effects of social media, both positive and negative, can be more extreme. Whether we’re creating social media policies for our schools, or even just talking to students about social media, it’s important to know where students are coming from on the topic –- and even more important to recognize that not all of them are coming from the same place.

Additionally, we should probably ask ourselves some important questions about the intersection of our students’ social media lives and our school communities. How are we handling our interactions with students related to their social media use? When we confiscate students’ devices at school, or when conflicts on social media spill over into school, are we offering students one-size-fits-all punishments? Advice? Reactions?

Even when we’re just talking about social media in our classrooms, are we modeling curiosity and critical thinking about the topic? Most importantly, these research findings also beg the bigger question: What are we doing to support students’ social-emotional learning overall?

4. Support digital citizenship education in your school.

Social media platforms are central to many, if not all, of the topics covered in the Common Sense Education K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Not surprisingly, here’s what teens had to say:

Cyberbullying is somewhat rare. Just 13 percent of teens report that they’ve been cyberbullied at some point. And, perhaps encouragingly, 23 percent say they’ve tried to help someone who has been cyberbullied.

Hate Speech in Social MediaBut online hate speech is common: There’s been an uptick in teens’ exposure to racist, sexist, and homophobic content on social media.

Whether we’re teaching an entire digital citizenship curriculumincorporating dig cit topics into our SEL instruction, or weaving digital citizenship concepts into our subject-area classes, there’s never been a more important time to do this work in our schools. Common Sense Education’s updated Digital Citizenship Curriculum has lessons that tackle the issue of media balance and well-being –- a topic clearly on teens’ minds related to social media. And we’ve added “Hate Speech” as a topic within our Cyberbullying & Digital Drama materials.

For more information, or to read the latest research report in full, visit Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences.

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Ted Dintersmith On What America’s Schools Should Be

For the entire 2015-2016 school year, Ted Dintersmith traveled to each and every state, visited 200 schools, met with everyone from students and teachers to school boards, legislators and governors. He’s compiled what he learned into his new book, “What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America.”

Interview recording: https://player.wbur.org/radioboston/2018/04/09/ted-dintersmith-schools

 

When It Comes to Setting Students Up for Success, Nation Earns a ‘C’

EdWeek

Incoming freshmen at California State University, Northridge, tour campus as part of their orientation before the school year begins. Many
of the students at the 40,000-student university in Los Angeles are the first in their families to attend college. Youth college attendance is
one of the indicators on the Education Week Research Center’s Chance-for-Success Index.

Incoming freshmen at California State University, Northridge, tour campus as part of their orientation before the school year begins. Many of the students at the 40,000-student university in Los Angeles are the first in their families to attend college. Youth college attendance is one of the indicators on the Education Week Research Center’s Chance-for-Success Index.
—Jamie Rector for Education Week
September 5, 2018
Article Tools

The Education Week Research Center developed the Chance-for-Success Index to gauge the education-related opportunities available in each state at different stages in a lifetime, from cradle to career. This third installment of Quality Counts 2018 examines the data behind the nation’s C-plus letter grade (a score of 78.5) on the index and sheds additional light on the wide disparities among states that have remained consistent over a decade of research-center analysis.

Many factors—both within and beyond the K-12 education system—can contribute to a person’s success throughout a lifetime, including state and local economic and social conditions. And while formal education is a driving force, key building blocks for success, including family income and education and access to early-childhood resources, start before students enter school. In addition, returns on a high school diploma or postsecondary degree can vary widely by state.

To rate how these factors come together in the case of a particular state, the Chance for Success Index combines 13 distinct indicators that together capture three broad stages of an individual’s life: early foundations, the school years, and adult outcomes.

The metrics in the early-foundations stage examine factors that help children get off to a good start and to enter the P-12 system ready to learn. Reading and math scores, along with high school graduation rates, are standard benchmarks of school performance in the index. Adult educational attainment, employment, and income represent key markers of adult success.

Results are based on the research center’s analysis of 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the 2017 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and adjusted cohort graduation rates from 2015-16 published by the U.S. Department of Education.

 

Grades are calculated using a best-in-class approach, which compares a state’s performance on each of the index’s indicators with the top-ranked state on that particular metric. The top state receives 100 points with other states earning points in proportion to their performance as gauged against the national leader. The resulting A-F letter grades reflect the average of numerical scores on a traditional 100-point scale.

In addition, this year’s Chance-for-Success grades, first published in January’s Quality Countsreport card, have now been updated based on new reading and math scores from NAEP, which were released by the Education Department in the spring.

Differing Opportunities

A look at the nation as a whole shows consistent standouts Massachusetts and New Hampshire continuing to top the list in this category with grades of A-minus and scores of 91.7 and 90.1, respectively. New Mexico (67.3) and Nevada (68.2) are at the bottom of the rankings with D-plus grades.

Nearly half the states (23) post mediocre grades between C-minus and C-plus. Those states’ results reflect a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Only a handful of states are strong or weak across the board. Massachusetts finishes in the top 10 states in eight of the index’s 13 indicators. New Mexico, by contrast, falls in the bottom 10 states on 11 of the metrics.

Consider the opportunities available in Massachusetts, the leading state on the index. Children typically live in families with adequate incomes and often have well-educated parents. More than 6 in 10 children in the state have a parent with a postsecondary degree, compared with just under half of children in the nation as a whole. And the majority (58 percent) of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds enroll in preschool, compared with just 47.7 percent nationally.

Students in the Bay State are also more likely to be proficient in reading and math, graduate from high school, and enroll in postsecondary education than in most states. As adults, graduates often enter well-educated communities with opportunities for employment and solid pay as a result of the state’s economy. By contrast, residents in Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and other states that rank low on the index are less likely to have such opportunities—making initiatives to boost their communities, economies, and education systems all the more important.

A closer look at each of the three life stages captured by the index can provide insights into states’ results and identify areas for improvement.

Early Foundations: Poverty and other factors in early childhood, such as parental education level, can be barriers to subsequent academic progress in K-12 schooling. The nation earns a B-minus (81.4) for early educational foundations. New Hampshire (98.7), North Dakota (95.7), Minnesota (94.3), and Utah (93.1) post grades of A. New Hampshire ranks first for both family income and parental education levels. New Mexico (71.1) and Nevada (72.3) get the lowest grades at C-minus. New Mexico finishes last in family income and 48th in parental education.

The School Years: Although early educational foundations and workforce opportunities are part of the index, roughly half the indicators examine the school years. When evaluated based on school participation and performance, the nation receives a C-plus (76.6). Massachusetts posts the only A (93.2), followed by New Jersey with the only A-minus (90.8). New Mexico (63.0), Alaska (64.5), and Nevada (65.5) get grades of D, the lowest in the nation. Massachusetts ranks fifth in preschool enrollment and leads the nation in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math test scores. New Jersey is third for preschool enrollment and second in high school graduation.

Overall State Grades

Catch up on how the nation and states fared on a broad range of K-12 categories, including school finance, as reported in this year’s first installment of Quality Counts, published Jan. 17.

 

Adult Outcomes: The nation receives a C-plus (78.3) for indicators measuring adult educational attainment and workforce outcomes, such as annual income and steady employment. The District of Columbia—where opportunities to serve in government are often a magnet for highly educated employees from across the nation—gets the only A in the adult-outcomes category, with a score of 99.3. Massachusetts finishes a distant second with the only A-minus, at 89.5.

On the other end of the scale, West Virginia (68.4), Nevada (68.4), Arkansas (69.3), and Mississippi (69.4) receive the lowest scores and grades of D-plus. Fewer adults in those states have earned postsecondary degrees or have incomes at or above the national median.

Little Change Over Time

In the midst of rapid economic and technological change, results on the index haven’t budged much since 2008, the year it made its debut with its current scoring format. The national score increased by just 0.1 points during that period, going from 78.4 in 2008 to 78.5 in 2018. The lack of improvement in the nation’s score over time—signifying a lack of growth in opportunity—is perhaps the most disconcerting finding from this analysis.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia increased their Chance-for-Success scores by a point or more since 2008. The District of Columbia improved the most, boosting its score by 6.5 points. That gain was fueled by the nation’s largest increase in preschool enrollment. Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wyoming also improved their scores by more than 2 points. By contrast, 13 states saw their scores decline by a point or more during this span. Maryland fell the most, dropping by 3.3 points. It lost ground in family income and 8th grade math test scores.

On certain individual metrics, some states made progress while others regressed. In the District of Columbia, for example, the percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool increased by 14.6 percentage points between the 2008 and 2018 reports. In North Carolina and Hawaii, preschool enrollment declined by 5.0 and 5.1 points, respectively.

Vol. 38, Issue 03, Pages 23-24

Published in Print: September 5, 2018, as What’s Behind the Myriad Factors That Make Up Someone’s Chances For Positive Lifetime Outcomes

More Talking in Class, Please

Edutopia

Strategies for facilitating small group and whole class conversations with students in grades 3 to 12.

 

Two young boys smiling and talking with each other in a classroom
©Shutterstock/gpointstudio

Providing consistent, structured time for students to participate in collaborative conversations can improve the overall classroom environment because once the need to sit quietly is replaced with opportunities to discuss course content, the amount of off-topic talking declines. Both small group and whole class discussions can provide these opportunities.

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION RECOMMENDATIONS

Teachers can facilitate quick small group collaborative conversations during class and provide immediate opportunities for students to verbally process their learning.

Students often benefit from a few moments of quiet before speaking. I call this time Silent Seconds, when students spend around 10 seconds collecting their thoughts before they speak. Once they’ve done so, I remind them that we have a variety of conversation starters to propel the conversation forward, including “I think _____,” “I wonder _____,” and “I was surprised by _____.”

Create class and individual discussion goals, and be sure to give students time to reflect on their success.

I use two guided discussion strategies—idea interchange and revolving discussion—to provide students an opportunity to move around and discuss their ideas with their peers.

Idea interchange: There are multiple variations to this strategy, but all begin with designating enough “idea interchange” locations around the room that kids will be able to break into groups of three to five students each. In each location, post a different question or discussion topic related to the lesson.

In one variation, the teacher assigns students to groups, and the groups move around the room together to discuss each question, jotting down notes individually or as a group as they rotate. The teacher sets a time limit for each idea interchange location depending on the age of the students and the topic. Students can move through all the locations on the same day or over multiple days.

Another way to do this is to assign each group a home location, where they’ll start out. At each station, each group decides on one statement that sums up their ideas about the question, writes it down, and puts it in a folder with the question. Once all groups have circulated to all locations, each group reads the statements left by their classmates at their home station and then creates a synthesis statement to share with the entire class.

You can also use this strategy successfully by creating groups based on interests or pre-assessment data and using the same information to assign appropriate stations for each group to visit.

Revolving discussion: Students form two circles, with one inside the other—the students in the inner circle face a partner in the outer circle. The teacher then poses a question that is open ended and requires critical thinking. Students spend one to three minutes (depending on topic and age) discussing the question with their partner. When the teacher calls time, students rotate so that they are facing a new partner, and they discuss the same question.

At this point, depending on the complexity of the question and the age of the students, students can rotate to another partner and continue discussing the same question or be given a new question to discuss.

This strategy allows students to talk through their ideas, gives them multiple perspectives on the same questions, and allows them to move around the room. The process can take however much time is appropriate for the content.

WHOLE CLASS DISCUSSION RECOMMENDATIONS

The most successful class conversations start with an engaging topic, clear procedures regarding how ideas will be exchanged, and sufficient time for students to gain confidence in their knowledge of the topic.

Some points to bear in mind:

  • Silence doesn’t have to immediately be filled with a comment. Students should review the text or other content and craft a response before speaking.
  • Before participating in any type of whole class discussion, students should take time to research the topic, gather facts to support their ideas, and generate their own questions for discussion.
  • Students should have access to the texts and other relevant content and refer to them during the discussion.
  • Students should have a place to jot down questions and new ideas during these discussions.
  • After whole class discussions, students benefit from taking time to reflect on what they have learned.

There are many structured ways to conduct whole class discussions, including seminars, summits, and debates.

Seminar: This discussion is designed to allow students freedom to share ideas and questions with each other by discussing without raising their hands. In practice, when students are learning the strategy it is helpful to begin by having them raise their hands and transition over time to free discussion.

Summit: This discussion is designed to encourage collaboration and problem solving as students generate ideas and come to a consensus. Students are given an open-ended question or problem to solve. They share out ideas and, through critical discussion in a seminar format, decide together which ideas are best supported by evidence and agreed upon by the majority of their classmates. They then come to a consensus to present to the teacher. This strategy works best after students have some experience participating in the seminar format. If more scaffolding is needed, students can practice in smaller groups before working as an entire class.

Debate: This discussion is designed to have students use facts to support their opinions and engage in civil discourse with their peers. Before a debate, students are assigned a side to argue for, and they research both sides and gather facts to support their ideas. A debate can be structured so that students freely share their arguments and counterarguments and then ask questions, or it can be structured as a round robin, in which each member of the class is given two minutes to talk. Alternate between the two sides until everyone in the class has spoken. During their turn, students can choose to bring up their own point or provide a counterargument to the person who went before them.

Important Questions to Ask Your Students

Edutopia

Discovering your students’ answers to these questions can help you create positive conditions for learning.

 

A teacher talks to a group of students
©iStock/Steve Debenport

Resilience and motivation come from having a sense of purpose, believing you have value to others, and engaging in acts of service that confirm that value. When these point in a positive direction, children gain momentum and positive accomplishment; when they don’t, we see downward spirals and increasing distance from college, career, community, and life success.

There are some things we should know about all of our students because knowing them will greatly influence our teaching (and parenting). They reflect the conditions necessary for students to learn, be happy, feel relevant, and be resilient.

Understanding who students are on a deep level also helps us be more understanding and supportive. In his article “Improving Teacher Empathy to Improve Student Behavior,” psychologist and school-climate expert Robert Brooks explains that teachers increase their empathy by asking themselves, “What words do I want my students to use to describe me?”

The following questions can and should be adapted for youth of all ages because they are as relevant to college students as they are to preschoolers. Knowing the answers tells us what we need to know to help create positive conditions for learning.

QUESTIONS TO ASK RIGHT AWAY

These start-of-school questions can be written out on index cards—ask children to write their answers on the other side, perhaps doing one per day during the first week of school.

  • What helps you feel welcomed?
  • How do you like to be greeted?
  • What strengths do you bring to classrooms? The school?
  • What do you like most about school so far? What would you like to see changed?

Another approach with these questions is to make a survey and have students provide responses; these can be anonymous or not. A more interactive approach is to use a morning meeting format and start the school day by having students discuss their responses to several of these questions in small groups and then share their group’s responses with the class.

QUESTIONS TO DEEPEN RELATIONSHIPS

These settling-in questions can be addressed in similar ways as the start-of-school ones, during the second and third weeks of school.

  • When do you feel competent? How often?
  • When do you feel you are being listened to?
  • When do you feel your voice is respected?
  • When do you feel cared for and about?
  • When do you get a chance to be a leader?
  • When do you feel most safe/unsafe?
  • When do you laugh at school?

QUESTIONS TO USE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR

Use these questions throughout the school year, followed by supportive discussions, to continue to get to know your students, build their reflection skills, and positively influence their resiliency.

  • What is your contribution to the school?
  • Who believes you can succeed?
  • What happens in school that makes you afraid? Frustrated? Defeated?
  • When do you feel challenged and supported?
  • What inspires you in school?
  • Who helps you bounce back from setbacks?
  • Who is always happy to speak with you?
  • When do you feel it’s OK to make a mistake, or show that you don’t know something or how to do something?

GROWING RELATIONSHIPS AND TRUST

It often takes a few weeks before students get a clear sense of their answers to the initial questions. By then, they will know who believes they can succeed, and who is happy to speak to them and help them bounce back. (And during those first weeks, students will notice you hard at work becoming one of those reliable and trustworthy adults in their lives.)

The more we know about our students, the more we can help them find answers to these questions, which will allow their energies to be better directed toward building resilience and their growth as learners.

Ten Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School

EdWeek

I had a colleague, a third-grade teacher, who spent most of August sorting books into leveled baskets, going steady with the laminating machine, and running up colorful curtains for the door to her classroom. Her husband, a secondary social studies teacher, would mark the beginning of the school year by wandering around the house, trying to find his thermos. This was immensely irritating to her, of course. But it’s hard to say who was the better teacher.

I had 30 first days of school as a teacher. Here’s my—very non-standard—advice for teachers, on gearing up for the new year.

1. Don’t work too hard at unimportant things, like fancy bulletin boards. The most important thing you can do before school starts is think about the curriculum and the kids you’re teaching. You’re not likely to achieve a high-functioning, intellectually cooking Day One, anyway. You’re aiming for Day Four or maybe Day Eleven, once you have a sense of who’s sitting in the desks (or on the floor), and how to get them to work together.

This is not a half-baked “make it up as you go along” theory of instruction, by the way. I know that curriculum has never been less open to creativity –and Important Metrics are looming. You’ve got a big job to do. But–as the salesman says, in The Music Man–you gotta know the territory.

2. Walk around the building and say hello to all of your colleagues. Even if the interaction lasts 30 seconds, and you’re not particularly fond of the teacher / aide / principal / secretary / custodian in question. There is nothing more effective than a school building where adults get along, respect each other and have the same goals. I am always amazed when teachers bitterly complain about the kids bickering in their classrooms, then proceed to ignore or castigate their fellow staff members. Build a few relationships. Welcome newbies. Thank the custodians for the shiny floors.

3. When it comes to advance planning, keep your options open. Don’t write detailed lesson plans for a semester. Plan for a week, maybe, just to ensure you have enough rabbits to pull out of your stovepipe and keep the kiddies busy. Set overarching goals, for sure. But it’s folly to think you have the flow of instruction and learning for the next six weeks under your control.  The watchword: learn as you go.


See also: Teacher Leadership vs. Teacher Professionalism


4. Corollary: For now, plan grandly, not precisely. Think about the things students need to know for the next decade, not the next standardized test or unit quiz. Not even the end-of-course or college admissions exams. Focus on things they need to master and understand before adulthood. Very soon, you will be dealing with the ordinary grind: daily lesson plans–plus assemblies, field trips, plays, the school newspaper, the spelling bee, the science fair, yada yada.But those are the trees. Think about the forest. What do you want your students to take away, forever, from your teaching? Which big ideas? What critical skills? It’s easy to forget the grand picture, once the year gets rolling. Take the time to do it now. Dream.

5. Make your classroom a pleasant place for you, too. In addition to being a place where students learn, it’s the place where you work, both with and without kids. (And, yes, I spent a year on a cart, so I know this recommendation may seem specious.) Most of us teach in a place that, stripped to its essentials, feels institutional, to some degree–if not downright unsightly.  Find a way to have comfortable seating, task lighting, pictures or tchotchkes that make you smile. It doesn’t have to be pretty and color-coordinated–many wonderful classrooms have that “kids’ playroom/teenage basement” aura. Still, forget those admonitions about too much personalizing–a classroom should feel like home.  One of my former students just posted this marvelous, home-made, vocabulary wall that her students can absorb all year long. (Thumbs up, Lin!)13876315_10155397374664815_7012842715327292597_n.jpg

6. Don’t make Day One “rules” day. Your classroom procedures are very important, a hinge for functioning productively, establishing the relationships and trust necessary for individual engagement and group discussions. Introduce these strategies and systems on days when it’s likely your students will remember them and get a chance to practice them. This is especially important for secondary teachers, whose students will likely experience a mind-numbing, forgettable parade of Teacher Rules on Day One.

7. Instead, give students a taste of disciplinary knowledge on the first day of school. Teachsomething, using your most engaging instructional techniques–perhaps a game, a round-robin, a quick-response exercise with no wrong answers. Bonus points for something involving physical movement. Beware of empty ice-breakers or team-building exercises–your goal is to have students going out the door saying “I think this class is going to be fun, and I already learned something.”

8. Keep your expectations about the first few days modest. You will probably be nervous (and have bad dreams), even if you’ve been teaching for 30 years–I always did. The students will be keyed up, too–it takes a couple days for them to settle in and behave as they usually do. Wait for your teacher buzz to kick in–that happy moment when you see engagement, maybe even laughter, and you know you’re on the right track. It takes a while, but when it happens, it’s like the first flower in the spring garden.

9. It’s the first day of school for parents and families, too. They’re at home, wanting to know that their kids are OK, that this year will be a good one for little Tyler. One idea for immediate parent engagement that I used for many years (thanks to Middleweb): asking parents to tell you about their child, in a million words or less. Very simple, and very powerful.

10. Tie your classroom to the world. There’s been a lot of on-line chatter about the presidential election, and its impact on kids. Even if you teach kindergarten–or chemistry–you can’t avoid the same kinds of chatter in your classroom. Use the daily news as backdrop for modeling civil interactions and substantive debate on the content you teach.  Read picture books on immigration. Take your AP Stats class to FiveThirtyEight.com and assign your physical education students to watch Simone Biles. What are YOU currently watching, reading or discussing? Share. Help your students analyze issues or find role models.

Because that’s your job.