I'll be teaching sixth grade next year after being out of the classroom for 5 years. I didn't choose this assignment and I have mixed feeling about taking it on. I've never fully taught 6th grade before. Previously, I was a primary teacher. No problem, because sixth grade doesn't start for another 3 months, right?

Wrong! It starts today!

Today? It's only JUNE 2nd! How can that be?

It's right there in those staff meeting notes from yesterday! Darn! I knew....

I should have attended that staff meeting! (I missed it due to other duties.) The students will be moving up to the next grade level for an activity and overview of the next grade level. All 5th graders will be coming my way. Today. All 44 of them.

"No problem," I reassure the principal, "I got this! Really"

But really, I have no idea what we will DO. My partner teacher and I, both being new to this school, will not start planning until this summer! My mind is a blank. Well....not totally blank. I have tons of cool things up my sleeve, but nothing much for keeping a group of 44 6th graders engaged for 30 minutes without technology!
It takes me all of 3 seconds to realize that I need to channel Obiwancorippo and the answer will magically appear. I close my eyes and of course, It comes to me like a lightening bolt!
Things That Suck!

The famous edcamp session created by none other than Dan Callahan and carried on by Bill Selak and reproduced by Jon Corippo and Will Kimbley and many others all across America!

I knock out 30 slides in 10 minutes. I realize that I can't call it Things That Suck with those darling little 6th graders...just can't go there. I head immediately to my PLN on Twitter for suggestions. Where else can you get instant feedback? Corippo suggests the title, Things That Are Not Optimal, I reply, "Really? These are 6th graders! How about Things That Are Stupid?" You can't win them all, Corippo.

So finally, taking Mark Hall's suggestion from Edcamp Yosemite, I call it Things That  Rock. There you go Mark, this one's for you!

I realize that I'm not just visiting these kids for a  half hour, these kids will be mine for a full 180 days!

This is going to take a lot more than being cool for 5 minutes.

They approach the classroom, escorted by the principal, in long disciplined lines. 

Marlena as a Sixth Grader

Blowing it is actually a fleeting possibility in the back of my mind! But then it dawns on me that this is a big moment for them. They are filled with anticipation and excitement and nervousness, just like me.

They have wondered who their next teacher would be for months now. They may have heard it might be Mrs. Hebern, but who I am has been left to their imaginations. I remember fretting over an ominous first day all summer with exactly that same feeling!

They ask as they approach the classroom, "Are you Mrs. Hebern?" They are not sure they are pronouncing my name correctly. One dark headed girl approaches me with a smile, genuine enough to melt your heart, and reaches out her hand to shake mine, "Hello."
And then we have a really great time! The kids have fun, the activity is engaging. They remain fairly disciplined.

I am surprised to see that they are interested in many of the same topics that the adults at edcamp were interested in discussing, like homework and grading and bullying. 

Then our time comes to an end, and they plead for one more. That's success in my book!

The first day, done...with smiles!

This 6th grade thing might just be more fun than I had anticipated.

Yeah, I got this!

Note: Special thanks to the wonderful staff at MES and principal who planned this whole school wide Flash Forward activity. Kids loved it and the teachers gave it rave reviews! Even the parents were buzzing about it!
Such an awesome way to wrap up this year and set the pace for next year!

Topics like grades and homework are of high interest to kids as well as teachers.
Smart Start
"Things That Rock"
Things That Rock Smart Start:
Dodge Ball
Boy or Girl Drama
Not knowing your grade
Lunch time
School projects
Pool parties
Tech that doesn't work

Missing assignments

Missing the bus
People who yell
Little kid parties
Lame project partners
Working alone
Chrome books

Little brothers or sisters
Seeing the principal
Reading books

Field trips
How to do a Things That Suck Session as written by Bill Selak.


Bill had 23 items, I got through 23 in 30 minutes with a quick pace. I called on 2-3 kids per item for a quick statement. In the fall, I plan to repeat this activity as part of Smart Start, with a lot more discussion. Of course, I'll only have half of the 44 kids that I had today.


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