Don't Waste the First Day of School

Gary Kipp
Aug 19, 2014


Kids are more ready to learn on the first day of school than any other day of the year. In many cases, it is the day they learn the least. What would happen if we set aside the rules for a couple of days and energized our students around the fun of learning and being a part of a very exciting school? It would take some creativity on the part of the teaching staff, but it would pay dividends throughout the year.

Imagine yourself as a parent of a freshman. It’s her first day of high school. Your entire day at work is spent wondering how her first day is going. You race home after work and anxiously interrupt her as she sits at the kitchen table texting her friends.

“Well, how did it go?!”


“What do you mean, ok? What did you do? Start with first period. Isn’t that Science? What was that like?”

“Well, we learned the rules of the class, what science vocabulary words I have to memorize, how many tests we have to take and what we have to do if we want extra credit.”

“Ok, what about second period, P.E.?”

“I learned what the punishment is for not suiting up. I learned that I have to run laps if I’m late to class. Here are the class rules. You have to sign them and if I don’t turn them in by Friday, I have to run laps.”

“Ok, while I am signing these rules, what about third period? Isn’t that math?”

“Yes, here are the rules for math class. You have to sign these, too. The teacher gave us a test today to see what we forgot over the summer. It was hard. The rest of the time, we just went over the rules of the class. Then we went to a Freshman Class meeting.”

“Really, I bet that was fun. Did you see Jamie there?”

“Yeah, but we don’t have the same lunch and we couldn’t sit together in the meeting. She is not in any of my classes. I won’t see her all day.”

“I’m sorry, Honey. Were your afternoon classes like the morning ones?”


How different is that conversation from this one?

“Oh mom, I’m so glad you’re home. You won’t believe what happened at school today. It was incredible. In Chemistry, the guys studied the chemical makeup of makeup, while the girls studied the chemical makeup of sweat. It was so funny when we had to present our findings to each other.”


“Oh, yeah, then in P.E., we had to play softball with goofy rules that the teacher created to raise our heart-rate. Jamie and I laughed through the whole game, but we were so tired at the end. Here’s one of the rules: when you hit the ball, everyone has to dance until you run to first base. I wish you could have seen it.”

“Me too. What about math?”

“Oh, it was so fun. Our math teacher shared with us some research that showed that as a student goes up in grade levels, the number of questions they ask in U.S. classrooms goes down. He showed us the graph of this but explained how asking questions in math will be really important to our learning this year. Then we paired up to generate math questions related to a cool video we saw where people going off a slip-and-slide on a hill.”

“What a day!”

“I know, right?”

The point is clear: which first day would you want your own son or daughter to experience? Which first day would align more closely with the Common Core? If kids are going to be learning in a Common Core world, shouldn’t that start with the first day?

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