The first days of school can be hectic: teachers—especially new teachers—are just settling in to their classroom space, wrapping their brains around curriculum, and starting the planning process for the year. As every new school year dawns, most teachers find themselves dwelling on curriculum, textbooks, and instructional technology. Our Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team urges you to hit the pause button on these items and instead shift your focus to building relationship, making your space inviting, and establishing clear routines and procedures.
First impressions are key. When students leave your room at the end of that first period with you, what do you want them sharing with friends? What do you want them sharing with parents? Can you hear what they will be sharing? Will they be excited or apprehensive? Will they be ready to learn or ready to give up? Will they know you care or will they believe you could care less?
It is when a class begins with a list of rules, explanations of the syllabus, or a complicated homework task that students form a first impression that then proves hard to re-craft as the year goes on. However, when a teacher greets students at the door with a smile, has students jointly help establish classroom rules, and takes some time to get to know a bit about each student’s background—here the first impression made is a strong one that will serve as a solid foundation on which deep learning can flourish. These class relationships, clear rules that students understand the purpose of, and procedures that students know and have practiced allow the students and their teacher(s) to move forward more quickly as the year progresses. Indeed, it is time well spent.
Often, teachers want to start the school year with this solid foundation of relationships and expectations but struggle with ideas for how to begin. Luckily, there are many ideas out there already that teachers can use or tweak. Some of our favorites are:
As you start to shape the first few days and weeks of you school year, remember you can always utilize the Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team: we love to help you help your students.
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Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.