Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School Dos and Don’ts

In his blog, SpeEdChange, Ira Socol provides smart advice about back to school dos and don’ts and I provide my thoughts on each below.


  1. Offer multiple media versions of information to students so they can read it, hear it, understand it in their native language, etc.  
    • You may want to consider partnering with students and parents to do this.
  2. Offer a wide range of places and ways for students to be comfortable because there is no reason to make kids feel trapped or uncomfortable
    • Craigslist and social media are great places to secure donations.  When I had my library we had a comfy couch, bean bags, pillows, animal chairs and more that were all donated.
  3. Let them eat and drink because people should be able to do that if they’re hungry or thirsty.  
    • When I was a librarian I jumped through hoops and fought unnecessary policies to allow food/drink in the library.  We learned to clean up after ourselves.
  4. Offer a Tool Crib for your students.
    • I just love this! We do not need to standardize the devices students use.  Let them use what they have or what you have. Choice is good and allowing students to use different tools or software helps kids build their toolbelts.
  5. Connect to social media
    • Creating globally connected students shouldn’t be a shallow piece of a school’s mission statement.  Teachers should bring this to life using social media tools by creating classroom accounts with Twittert, Skype, Google, and UStream.
  6. Let kids declare "time outs."
    • Students don’t need you to tell them they need a “time out,” empower them to tell you.  Adults take a break and back away when they need to. Children should be afforded the same opportunity.

  1. Don’t assign seating or expect students to sit on the same type of chair.
    • This is important when you have students like me who or Donald Rumsfeld who just hate sitting on a chair or working at a standard desk  and that’s okay.  I have not had a desk in seven years.  
  2. Don’t force your students to stay in your room.
    If they need to leave for a bit you’re accomplishing nothing by keeping them in.
    • When I was a library media specialist people were amazed at how wonderful the “difficult” students were in my center.  That is because sometimes people need a break and that’s okay.
  3. Don’t ban mobile phones.
    • Couldn’t agree more.  Teach responsibility and ability to harness the technology students own for learning.  
  4. Don’t insist on handwriting
    • Thank you for this.  I haven’t used a paper/pen in nearly 10 years except when forced at outdated, inefficient medical offices where I write the same thing unnecessarily 500 times.  Other than that, never!  Socol advises, “Let kids enter text and data any way that works for them.” Socol has some smart suggestions for doing this. Such common sense.  
  5. Don’t... give kids a "second shift" of work when they leave school.
    • I couldn’t agree more.  You’ve controlled what students do all day.  Let them have freedom to live and apply knowledge in the real world at night.  Let them run around and get exercise.  Allow them to discover, explore, and develop their passions. Let them rest, relax, or be alone.  In short, they’ve put in their day.  Let them be who they want to be and do what they want to do when they leave.  Socol says it this way, allow them the opportunity to extend their world, rather than extending yours.
  6. Don’t sweat "due dates."
    • What a novel concept!  Perhaps kids work at different rates or have other life factors that may impact when they have completed their work.  Socol gives examples of all sorts of high level positions and deadlines that are rarely met in the real world and reminds teachers to ask themselves, if the work assigned is really of any real value.  As I said in a recent speech, “When is the last time you read a book you loved and thought, ‘I can’t wait to write a book report about this.’ If we’re not keeping it real with students, why should they bother to do the work?

To see full reasons and resources visit the original post here


  1. Love everything on this list, just want to expand on #6 on the Don't list which gave me a laugh because now that exists, I, book lover that I am, read a book & them immediately CAN'T WAIT to write a review about it on this book sharing review site.

    I wish there was a safe place for kids to do the same.

    So I agree with the principal of #6 --just think the example needs updating because there are actually some adults who read books & write reviews on them 'just for fun'.

    Love this posting, thanks!
    Julie Johnson

  2. @Mrs. Johnson,

    Thanks for the comment, expansion, and opportunity to clarify. A book review is something you write for an authentic audience as a result of being moved to do so. It enables you to connect with others who share your like or dislike and learn about other possible books of interest. That is good. Doing so is also safe btw for students.

    A book report is something that is written for no audience because someone else tell you you have to. That is not good.

  3. I like all the ideas mentioned above. But sometimes is so hard to apply them (I wish I can though). I think it takes time that students are really responsible to understand all those points and apply them wisely. If i say to my students, you can get a time out everytime you feel it, probably, they would be going out of the classroom at any moment. For sure it takes time, but it is part of the process of growing and becoming mature and responsible.

  4. I really enjoyed this list as well. I think that as a teacher-librarian, I'm in the perfect spot to implement these ideas; I think classroom teachers feel pressure or tradition forcing them to assign seating or homework. I don't bother with either of these and no one has complained. I'll print this list out as a reminder to myself - most of them are things I do, but I can foresee "due dates" as being an area I need to work on.

  5. I have a "student lounge" area with modern, comfortable seating. Students can come in whenever they want to read, relax, or play with my iPad if they will also help other students when they need it. They respect getting the privilege and it's never been abused.