“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to
listen, slow to speak, and reluctant to become angry.“
– James 1:19 NIV
As we get rolling with the school year, it is important to open the lines of communication not only with your new students, but with parents/guardians as well. It is also important as we start the year to build up the the class culture and routines that will last the entire year. Although we are busy, it’s also a good idea to reflect on what went well and what improvements need to be made as we prepare next summer for the school year.
Make Connections with Family Early in the Year
Call each parent in the first month of school. If you are at the elementary level or a special education teacher, you may have a specific class list or caseload to work with. You will be able to look up in your grade book system the phone numbers and/or email addresses of your parents. This is one thing that I’ve tried to do each year that I have taught is that the first month of school I try and make positive contact with parents. This can be a quick conversation just seeing if the parents have any questions and
maybe list one or two things that you already appreciate about their child. It is just a great thing to have the first phone call from the school be a positive one to start the year.
I have had many parents say that this may be the first positive phone call they have received for their child at school. The rest of the year may be pretty rough for their child, but setting the tone and opening the gates for communication on a positive note will be helpful in the long run. Parents will see that you are there for their child and will let you know when things are going well and when their child is struggling in the classroom. If you
teach middle school or high school, you might have many students that you work within a day. It may not be realistic to call every single parent the first month of school, but trying making contact with parents whose student may struggle in your class is an excellent way to start the year off on a positive note.
One of the best reads I have had so far is from Behaving to Belonging: The Inclusive Art of Supporting Students Who Challenge Us by Julie Causton and Kate MacLeod. This book has been an incredible resource of knowledge and practical advice to support students that may challenge us. Anyone who is looking for a new perspective and strategies to help learners should check out this resource.
Building Class Culture
Build class culture with routine and expectations to help with the rest of the year. During the first few months, set up a class culture with what is appropriate and not appropriate behavior with modeling and giving examples, so students understand what correct behavior looks like. Also, what are the routines with class work? Expectations in routines look different in each classroom and from teacher to teacher if you teach multiple subjects; you will want to review the procedures and classroom norms with your students. Have the students be a part of the process, and this creates more buy-in by the students.
Reflect on the First Week of School
You have made it past the first week! What went well? What did not go so well? Make notes now so you can improve those early days for next year. Even if you don’t have a lot of time after the first week of school, try making it a priority to write some things down that you can build off from for next year. Talk with other colleagues as well and see what went well for them on the first week of school and what things in a grade level he might change or tweak that make it better.
Our grade level team looked back at the sixth-grade orientation in the first week and talked about as a grade level what went well and what things we can do differently. It was great to see all of the teacher’s perspectives come together to help each other out. It may not be a bad idea as well to do this for each week or for each larger unit that you are covering in your content areas. This will give you some insight for the next school year on what changes should be made, and maybe you can build in, or what things could be taken out because your students may already know the material.
Enjoy the Ride
I hope you have a great first or second week of school this week! Take time to rest and enjoy this great weather that late August and September has to offer. Just because school has started, summer doesn’t end until September 23rd!