“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
Welcome back to a new year of students and teaching! For all educators, this will be a year unlike any other. No matter what this year brings, I know that we will all come together for the greater good of our students. For some of you this will be your first group of students. You will always remember your first class of students. They will making a lasting impact on your teaching journey. Enjoy the time you have with them because it will go fast. It may not seem like it through the long winter months or standardized testing, but you have the opportunity this year to making a lasting impact on your students as well.
You will have ups and downs, but so will your students this year. They will give you grace when your lesson totally fails, and you will give them grace as you guide them through this school year.
Enjoy these first few weeks of school. Work on building relationships that will be the foundation of your school community. Seek veteran advice from colleagues, and remember to set clear expectations with your students to help ensure that everyone has a successful year!
From the very beginning, make your first week all about learning about your students and developing relationships and routine in the classroom. Kids will learn the best and cooperate when they feel known in the classroom. You have to go slow to move fast later in the year. The first few weeks of school should be used to get to know your students, practice routines and solidify expectations for the classroom.
Use this time at the beginning of the year to have some fun with your students. Try some team building activities such as the human knot, relay races, etc. to help build a sense of community in the classroom. Move these activities into your content areas and discuss how to work in collaborative groups. Don’t assume that students know how to do this well. If you want students to work in groups throughout the year, take time to practice how this will run and how students should communicate with one another that is respectful. So much is going on at this time of year, but remember that you will get to your curriculum and once you get to know your students and they know your routines, you will be ready to hit the ground running in your content areas.
Ask for and utilize a mentor. Good mentors will listen to you when your day has been horrible, give you “veteran teacher advice,” introduce you to staff members, and review school and district-wide policies (so that you don’t have to use what little time you have studying the district handbook). Administration, no matter how good, will not always have time to answer your questions (and you will have several), so make sure you take advantage of this resource
Your mentor can also help you with little things such as how to set up your grade book find different things in the school that you might need, using a copy machine and other nuances of the building that would be foreign a new teacher. These mentors will also give you insight into the culture of the building as well as any advice about working staff members. They can also help your curriculum planning and pacing guides. Make sure to buy your mentor some coffee, or a simple thank you note for helping you out.
Setting Clear Expectations
Set your expectations firmly and be very consistent, this will pay off exponentially as the year goes on. It is important the first day of school in the first week to set the tone for the school year. You are in charge of their education their parents trust you to take care of their children throughout the day. Our responsibility is making sure all students are in an environment in which they can learn. Stay firm and consistent with the rules you have all agreed upon. Students or respect you more if you are
consistent and fairly treat all students to abide by the social contract you have created together.
I was talking to a teacher once, and they asked me” How is it that my kids are always out of control in the afternoon?” There are a variety of reasons for students being unable to focus in the afternoon. I worked with her during the morning, and her students knew expectations, followed the structure of the lesson and the teacher was consistent. In the afternoon, students had more freedom and often tested the limits of the social contract.
The teacher possibly tired from the day herself backslid a little on the consistency piece of the social contract, and that is when the problems started. Be firm but loving at the start of the school year and always be consistent and they will respect and for you the rest of the year.
I hope you have a fantastic first week of school no matter where you are this year! Take some time this week to rest when you get home as getting back into “Teacher shape” takes a little while. No matter how long you have been a teacher, you are still exhausted but also renewed after a successful first week of teaching. Enjoy the journey!