First Five Days of School

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to think about the start of the school year. eSchoolNews highlighted in the July 19 online edition the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston. At this year’s conference Ed-Tech thought leader, Alan November, asked educational leaders from around the globe to focus on the first five days of school.  According to the article:

While there is general agreement that the first five days of school are “absolutely essential” for establishing a culture of learning that will set the right tone for the rest of the year, there is very little research or discussion about how to make these first five days the most relevant and productive they can be, said ed-tech thought leader Alan November. Kicking off his Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston July 18, November announced a new project to change that. Called “First Five Days,” the project aims to start an international conversation about how to make the start of the school year the best it can be, to foster the greatest chance for success. November invited educators to share their ideas and experiences on the online professional development community created by his consulting firm, November Learning. To participate, go to, click on “Register,” then click on the “Five” tab. There is also a new Twitter hashtag, #1st5days, that educators can use to share their ideas via the popular micro-blogging service.

Each day of the conference participants responded to surveys on key questions regarding the first five days of school. For instance, here’s a graph showing how the balance looked between content and process:

Poll from Building Learning Communities Conference

Based on my over 20 years as an educational technology leader I’ll share some of the key issues I faced. I hope you’ll respond and make this a collaborative effort.

The Challenges:

  • Updating and upgrading teacher laptops – At the Fox Chapel Area School District we had a 3 year plan for upgrading end-user devices for staff members. The hardest part was getting teachers to turn in their laptop for the update or upgrade. I had a team of students who did much of the work during the summer with one of my tech staff members supervising.
  • Updating information systems – I tried to make sure we updated our student information system, parent notification, our financial management system, or whatever systems required an update. Most vendors published their updates over the summer. We never knew what to expect until teachers, administrators, or parents logged into the upgraded systems that first week of school. In order to be proactive we sent email to all users, but there were always people who never read their mail.
  • Updating student accounts – The worst situation was Edline. I still cannot figure out how a company the size of Edline cannot figure out how to move students from one building to another. With Edline we had to have all middle school and high school students start with new accounts. This also meant that parents had to address the change of accounts. The first month, not just the first five days, was always incredibly challenging. In order to make this work as well as possible, we had mandatory sessions for all sixth grade students at the middle school. All ninth grade “homeroom” teachers received directions on exactly what to say and do. Messages went out to all parents. However, you know the results! There were still many issues that took days, weeks to resolve.

What can you add to the list? How did you resolve your problems?

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