“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6 NIV
We have had a busy week around here for our family. We welcomed our third son into the world last Friday and we are just elated with our new addition to our family. As I am writing this early in the morning, I am holding our new son. What a miracle it is to have a new baby and also a heavy responsibility it is as parents to teach them all they need to know before they leave the nest. I look at my son and I see a blank slate, a boy who is watching everything we do and will soak it all in. I have an opportunity to help turn him into the boy and man that God wants him to be. As the beginning of the school year draws closer, each student deserves to have a fresh start at a new year to be a student that can reach their full potential.
Too much Information?
Information can help us get to know our students in many ways. We need to be aware of students with particular special needs so we can accommodate them in the classroom. It is also important to have a background knowledge on how the student has performed academically and socially in the classroom. You may have some students that have required some sort of Tier II or Tier III intervention for academics or behavior in the past. It is important to understand what has worked well and what has not.
While having all of that information is great, the gift of time and maturity that happens over the summer can be a beautiful thing. Students who really struggled at the end of one school year may have a new teacher, students, and environment and could be a totally different student come September. This is not always the case, but giving the students the benefit of the doubt to start off the year is always a good idea. I usually tell my students that the new school year is a clean slate and anything that happened in the past should stay in the past as we need to focus on this school year.
As you look at previous year’s notes and reflections, take some time to jot down each student’s strengths. Set student’s up for success during the first few weeks of school by teaching to those strengths. For example, if you have a student that you know struggles in reading fluency, but is great in math, have them help you out the first few days in math during whole group instruction to build up that student. Slowly and intentionally work into the areas of weakness as the weeks progress.
Have students list their own strengths in the first few days of school as well as something they would like to work on. This goal setting exercise gives you invaluable information on how they view themselves as they start the year. These are great to reflect on at the end of the year too to see progress!
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
One of the benefits of starting a new school year is that you get a clean slate yourself. You have learned so much during your student teaching and/or other teaching experiences to equip you more for the year to come. Be up front with your students in the first days of class that some days your lessons are going to bomb big time, but that’s okay. We all need a safe place to learn from our mistakes, even educators. When students know we are willing to take a risk of failure to help them succeed, they will also be more willing to make that leap of faith with you. Students need to see that we are not The be all end all of knowledge, but that we own up to our mistakes and learn from them.
As you are getting into your classrooms and preparing for the new year, take a look at your whiteboard and notice how clean it is. Students and teachers alike get a fresh clean slate to make this year the best we can be. Study up on your student’s strengths and don’t be afraid to acknowledge your mistakes. It does not make you weak, it makes you human. Thank you for all you do!