42 Futures - My Back to School Rant #lecture #soapbox #inspiration

http://createdforlearning.blogspot.com/2014/08/42-futures-my-back-to-school-rant.html
Today was the day I had to got to introduce my classes to my classroom guidelines. This year was even a little different because last Friday I chose to show them this little discussion piece from young adult author John Green, which was a great intro to our talk today.

Here goes my talk to the 42 students in my class (which takes about 15 minutes):

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All right, class, now we're going to talk about the rules of our class. If you're anything like me, I grew up dreading these discussions because rules always feel like...well...rules. They're suffocating. Stifling. Boring. I hear you. I felt the same way. I was the kid who earned something like 60 detentions his freshman year in high school. And I was the principal's son. Yup.

So please look at our class rules. What do you notice is similar about them all?

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STUDENT: They all have respect in them.

You're right. In fact, they all start with respect. And that's one thing about respect that I think lots of people get wrong. I've heard students say it this way, "I'll respect her when she respects me." And I always want to ask them back, "Who's the more mature one: you or her?" And they never say their friend. So I ask them if it makes sense for them to wait for the immature friend to start showing respect first? They may giggle, smirk, shrug -- whatever -- but they get it. Respect starts with them.

So our first rule is "Respect yourself and your future." It's the first rule because it's most important. These are in order of importance. This may seem weird, but I want you to repeat after me, "I am the most important person in this class." *they repeat after me, giggling a bit* And you are. I want you to fast-forward 6 years from today (for 7th-graders, 5 years for 8th graders). What are you most likely doing?

STUDENTS: Going to college.

That's right. You're starting college. And do you know how many of these students sitting around you will be there? Zero. None. Okay, maybe one.

See, something I've learned about life is that it's a bunch of chunks of time. You're in this 2-year era called Middle School. You're going to have some great times with these people around you. You're going to make a lot of good friends and fun memories. And then in two years, you won't be with all of these people anymore. And in 6 years, you'll be with almost none of them. And that's why that's our first rule: "Respect yourself and your future." Because in just a few years, you're going to be all you've got. You think your mom's going to come stay in your dorm with you?

Now, our 2nd rule: "Respect your fellow students and their right to learn."

*Then I pull up a zoomed-out live screen of Google Earth.*


I'm going to magically turn you all into glowing green dots on this map. You're all glowing right here (point to your spot on the map). In 2 years, you're all going to fly a little ways away to your various high schools. One of you might move to North Carolina. One of you to San Francisco. Then in 6 years though, things really get crazy. Your dots are going to fly all over the globe.

Boston.
Michigan State.
UCLA.
Florida.

And across the ocean.

Cambridge.
Oxford.
Aix-en-province.
Cairo.
Tokyo.

Which is why this 2nd rule isn't too far off from our 1st. If you goof off in your class, like I did my freshman year, you're not just stealing from your own future, but you're stealing from 42 other futures sitting here with you. 42 futures who are going to fly all over the globe into their own lives just as you are.

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And if I could go back to my freshman self, I would say, "How dare you steal this time from 33 other futures?"

Because when we think of it that way, it makes my so very hilarious joke right in the middle of their science class not so funny. Should we have fun in school? Yes. Tell jokes? Yes. But it matters when. Because all of our futures are at stake.

Like mine. Rule #3 says, "Respect your teacher." I know you may not realize it, but when I leave here everyday, I go home and I'm a husband, dad, friend, basketball player, dude eating at the Habit. I'm just a guy. So when you leave trash on my floor to clean up and don't put the library books back the right way, you're taking time away my daughters would get to have with their dad. And here in class, I have a future too. This is my 13th year teaching. I'm probably going to teach for another 30 years. I'll be 65 someday. My glowing green dot isn't going anywhere. It might even be in this classroom for the next 30 years. I know that might seem sad and pathetic to you, but I love my job, and I'm happy to be here for 30 more years.

So are you really going to make 1 of my 30 a miserable year? Or what about your P.E. teacher who has 3 more years till retirement? Are you going to make 1 of his 3 years left miserable? And who am I to make 1 of your 2 years here (50%) a miserable time? We're in this together. All of our futures, woven together here.

In this place. This school.

Rule #4: "Respect your school's property and community." Did you know you go to the #1 middle school in Orange County? Do you think we just woke up last year and got that honor? No way. We are the best school because we have been becoming the best school. 6 years ago, we were one of the worst schools of our kind, so how did we get here. Choices. One choice at a time and lots of working together.

(to the returning 8th graders) And you were part of that. You were 1/2 of the school last year that made us #1. In fact, you're the only 1/2 left. The other 1/2 is off at high school now.

(to the new 7th graders) And you inherited all that. You didn't earn any of it. The 8th graders did. They were 1/2 of the school last year that was #1. You weren't. But you're next. What are you going to do now at the #1 school?

Because when you came on campus, you saw the fresh paint. This place is nice. You see the new walls they replaced. Maybe you've heard of the blueprints they've got to build a new gymnasium and science labs and performing arts center. That's your community. The one you didn't earn. The one you inherited. I dare you to live into it. How are you going to carry this legacy? How are you going to leave this place even better? How are you going to care for your future and all these other 42 futures around you?

Because we believe in you. We need you. Now go get started.


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41 comments:

  1. This is terrific. I will be borrowing heavily from it next fall.

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    1. We're so glad it's helpful to you! We do something like this every year. It really sets the tone for our learning environment, and I come back to it every so often.

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    1. You're super welcome, Tina! Guess we've got a few months yet till we need this again, right? Enjoy the summer!

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  3. Wonderful! Can't wait to revise my own.

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    1. Great! We'd love to read yours, Lisa, if you ever write it out!

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  4. Thank you! As a first year middle school teacher next year, this is the best set of classroom rules that I have seen. I will be adapting for my own room.

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    1. Wow, so honored by your thoughts. :) We love this talk and really think it sets the mood of the year. Enjoy your own adaptation. We'd love to read yours when you get around to writing it down! :)

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  5. I'm a 2nd year education student, and I'm saving this for my years in the classroom because I love it so much! Thank you!

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  6. Wow, thank you for posting this! I'm making a transition from teaching elementary school to teaching high school students. I will be the Early Childhood Education teacher, so ultimately I am teaching my students how to teach the preschoolers that will be coming in our class 3 days a week. This really gives me great ideas to go off of! Not only will their behavior influence their future and their peers but also the 3, 4, and 5 year olds that will be looking up to them. I'm looking forward to making this my own. Thanks again!

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  7. I like that every rule is centered around respect and you include the justification for why it is important to them. Awesome list!

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    1. That's what we were shooting for, Tina! Glad they are a blessing to you.

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  8. This idea is great- as a high school teacher I struggle to make the goals and expectations "we" set relatable to students. This does that! Also, how did you make the awesome slide with the rules on it?

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    1. Hey Amy,

      Glad these ideas are helpful to you! :) I'm always trying to find ways to connect with my students and bring things down to real levels.

      As for the design, I design almost everything in Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. Those programs are amazing. I've been using them for years and can do so so so much with them that Word and PowerPoint and Paint don't let you do.

      Good luck this next year and enjoy the summer!!! :)

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  9. You have such great ideas. I teach 7th grade in the poorest district in my state -- one or two of my seventh graders will be having a baby next year, at least three will be on probation if not actually in juvie, if I'm very lucky, none will be shot by the end of high school. Most will still be living in the same city. Would love a variation on your theme.

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    1. I remember teaching high school at an alternative ed school with the same conditions you describe Anonymous. I did a similar speech to the one above about respect. I stressed the safety between walls concept. I actually told them what happens in the streets stays in the streets. I respect you, you respect me. It is amazing what a difference it made in setting the tone. Thank you for working with your population of students and making a difference. Have a blessed year!

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    2. I love your ideas about the walls and safety. Talks like this really set the tone for students respecting you back. I think they always want to be called to a higher level of honor. They want someone to see that in them. Keep on being awesome!

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  10. Respect has been my classroom rule for several years now...I love how you connected it not to just their lives now in this particular classroom, but to life outside and in the future. Thank you for these ideas to add to my repertoire.

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    1. You're welcome! We love just being a part of the conversation around raising the bar of honor for our students.

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  11. This was excellent! I will be adapting and using in my class!

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  12. I will also be using parts of this. I have been teaching middle school for 22 of my 25 years. Starting my 26th year in just a few short weeks. Always trying to find a way to connect school with their futures.

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    1. Wow, thank you so much for all you've done for students through the years. Teachers like you always trying to improve and impact their minds and souls...priceless!

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  13. About a third of the way through, I knew this was you! (I know your voice from TpT materials I have purchased and used, and your willingness to work with me on using them with senior students who are struggling readers.) You are clearly dedicated to making learning personal for each student. I wish you had been one of my teachers. I look forward to adapting this for my classes this year. Thank you for sharing, again.

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    1. Oh my, this is such an encouragement! Thank you for leaving this message for us. It really is humbling and affirming to hear you say exactly what we try to do through our teaching and teaching resources. Keep on being awesome! Jonathan

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  14. Thank you for the wonderful idea. I borrowed from it heavily. :) Here is mine.

    http://prezi.com/n2p7pypdpvdc/utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

    The video will be replaced with the same song as a background. (borrowing my mom's CD).

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    1. http://prezi.com/n2p7pypdpvdc/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

      sorry. wrong link above

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    2. So fun! Thanks for sharing how you've integrated this into your students' lives.

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. I do something very similar and have "winged" it for 10 years. My students call it my speech about "being part of this city, state, country." I remind them that one day you might be interviewing for a job you want and the person conducting the interview would be on of the classmates you thought was someone easy to pick on. Love middle schoolers-explain it, they get it.

    Thank you for putting it all together in one spot!

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  17. Thanks for posting this. I teach high school and I needed a fresh approach to the same old stuff.

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  18. Love this! Thank you for sharing!!

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  19. Love this and I will be using it, too. Thanks for sharing

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