August and September signal the end of summer and the anticipation of a new school year for kids and teachers alike. Some of you are already back in the classroom with your students; others of you will be returning after Labor Day. What kind of year will it be for you and your students? Here are four tips for starting the new school year off right!
Focus on the now - this school year. Each year is a new beginning and a chance for you to be a success. Don’t make the mistake of looking back at past performances or unproductive patterns and habits. Maybe you had a bad experience last year. That was then...this is what you make it now. I remember one particular year in my career where it seemed like I had a target on my back and every parent was carrying an arrow. I found myself defensive and defeated until I started looking for the positive and remaining focused on my personal and professional goals. It's not too late to set goals and write action steps to ensure you'll stay on the path to success. Don't strive for perfection. Aim for consistent growth and progress. You're going to have great days and no-so-wonderful moments. Don't dwell on those. Instead keep your eye on the prize. Reflect on your teaching regularly and look for ways to improve your teaching.
Connect with your students. Research shows that of the factors contributing to student success, student/teacher connection is one of the most important. You should spend the first week at a minimum building classroom community and establishing relationships with students. Not sure how that works? You can find community building activities here that are ready to print and go. Connect with a colleague or mentor. Make a connection with at least one colleague or mentor at your school. Be open and show your willingness to accept feedback and advice. I taught for 30 years, and I'm still learning new things to improve what I do every day. If there isn't anyone at your school you feel comfortable confiding in, reach out to social media. There are many teacher support groups you can join. I'd love you to become a member of Prepping for Success. Click here if you'd like to join me and more than 500 other teachers on our journey.
Communicate. One of the most proactive ways to get parents on board with the work you are doing in your classroom is communication. You may not be able to do all the things, but you can choose one form and be consistent in your delivery. I sent home a back-to-school newsletter during the first week and then put out a monthly email to parents after that for the remainder of the school year. This worked well for my classroom. You can take a look at some of my parent communication tools here. You might decide to start a class website where you post information about your expectations, procedures, and homework. The more parents are aware of your goals and plans for helping their child succeed, the more likely you are to have their support.
Establish routines. While they may not show it, kids crave structure because it gives them a sense of security. When you establish basic routines and procedures for the classroom, you are setting up your students and ultimately yourself for success. Students should be taught and practice the procedure for just about every action in your class. This includes everything from sharpening a pencil to leaving the room. Teach, Practice, Reinforce.
I'll be going back into the classroom later this year for a long-term assignment. I'm already collecting my favorite relationship-building activities and deciding how I want to communicate with parents and let them know I'm the new kid on the block. Should be a fun and rewarding learning experience for me. I wish you the very best for you and your students this year. If you need help as a beginning teacher or just want to chat with another human who understands your language, message me. I love getting to know my tribe and sharing ideas.