PedagogyPop QuizSecondary Education

Pop Quiz – Don’t Smile ’til Christmas

Although we still have two weeks of school left until our summer break, our timetables shifted at the start of this week. This means that all students moved up to the next year group and started their new courses three weeks before going off for summer. It also means that I had an entirely new set of classes to contend with on Monday. Our school does this every year and although it may sound odd if you’ve attended or work in a school that doesn’t do it, we’re all entirely used to it. We have three weeks of our new classes before summer, which means that we have three weeks to get to know our new students before we all disappear for several weeks.


Three weeks isn’t a huge amount of time and anyone who has even a passing knowledge of high school will know that the couple of weeks before summer tend not to be the most productive. Students start to mentally check out, attendance starts to slip, and even some teachers begin to feel like they’re already partially on holiday.


We do, however, have to get some serious teaching done in that time. My new classes have been faced with various tasks this week and I’ve been working hard to show them the level of commitment that I expect. It’s quite a shock though, suddenly being faced with an entire new batch of faces and personalities. I’ve been teaching long enough that I have my “welcome to your new class” routine pretty much down and I’m not usually too nervous about dealing with my new classes. It’s also vitally important that the first few class periods are productive and serious, so that the “summer lethargy” can be pushed back a little.


For this Pop Quiz, I wanted to ask about how other educators deal with meeting new classes for the first time. We’re all individuals and we must all have our own unique approaches.


Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you meet a new class for the first time?


Do you go in hard to bring them into line immediately, or do you favour a more softly-softly approach?


Have you ever had a class that you could tell were going to be wonderful from your very first meeting? Or one that was going to be awful?

Featured Image Credit: John Duffell

The Pop Quiz is a question to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.


  1. June 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm —

    I can’t decide if I think that system is awesome, or if it’s horrible. I keep going back and forth. Who thought up the idea of having them for three weeks and then letting them go for a whole summer? Is it brilliant or insane? Ahhhhh.

  2. June 16, 2013 at 7:11 am —

    I like the idea. The last two weeks of the term are often a lost cause, and the first two weeks with a new class are often a mess of outlines, getting-to-know-yous, and schedule changes. Why not combine them? This way too you can assign summer work with the benefit of in-class preparation. I always hated getting summer assignments for AP classes from teachers I hadn’t even met (and further, having done the summer work, once being unable to actually schedule the class in the new semester).

  3. June 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm —

    Hey guys! I’m so sorry that I didn’t respond to your comments earlier. I find it quite difficult to critically evaluate our end-of-year timetable change system because I’m so utterly familiar with it. I do know that last year my school abandoned the system and didn’t change timetable until after the summer break. There was such an outcry from staff (and pupils) that it’s back to “normal” this year. Also, we’re now two weeks into the new timetable with one week left and I really feel like I’m getting to know my new classes well. I’m a fan of the system, but I do understand how odd it must look if you’ve never experienced it!

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