It’s here! Summer is over and we are back in school. For some it is a first job, a new career after working so hard in college and the first time having their OWN students and their own classroom. Such an exciting and overwhelming time! For others, it is a change of school, a different grade level, or a change of direction. That is equally nerve-racking and exhilarating. And many others are in the same school, the same grade with the same teacher co-workers, ready to nurture and grow a whole new group of students.
Having a B.R.I.G.H.T beginning back to school season is a simple way of remembering 6 core traits that help to stay on track and focus on the job in hand. Remember these things going forward to ease yourself into a successful school year.
It’s your first day and you have been given your class list. All of the sudden you are surrounded by other teachers from the previous grade telling you about the children in your class, about their abilities, their behaviors, who can sit with who, their medications and their parents. Try to filter them out. Be ready to tell them, with a smile on your face, that you don’t know yet who is going to be in your class, but you are so excited as you have heard great things about the upcoming grade. Shut it down quickly.
Listening to other well-meaning teachers tell you about a student in your room is a sure-fire way to stress yourself out. In my experience no child has ever behaved the same way with two different teachers. What happened last year doesn’t impact your new year. If you start the year with low expectations for a student, then guess what? You’ll get exactly what you thought you would. But if you start the year on a positive note, believing the best about everyone, your year will be much better. Students come into school for a brand new year and it should be a fresh start for them. Be the teacher they need, not the teacher someone else thinks you should be.
Refrain from Social Media
I know this is hard! In a few short years social media has become an important part of our lives. But I want you to step back and check on who is following you on social media. Amongst the hundred of friends you have are there people that might know someone at your school? Are there friends of friends of friends who might have a child at your school? Is it possible that someone from downtown central office might have a friend who is the parent of another friend who you went to college with? Do you see where I am going with this?
Be careful about what you post. Just this week I have seen numerous Instagram posts about teachers wishing that school started later, complaining that their rooms weren’t ready, complaining about professional development meetings, complaining about setting the alarms. Don’t get me wrong, I know these are things that we are thinking and that we talk to our co-workers about. But talking with a friend is not the same as posting it to 100+ ‘friends’, and potentially their friends and co-workers. Because who knows who they are and who they talk to. Don’t get caught in a trap of being the teacher who is always grumbling. Be mindful of what you say and who might be taking notice. As my mom said, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Good advice.
In the Moment
Kind of cheating with my ‘I’ here, but I really meant ‘Be Intentional’. It’s simple: when you are teaching, you are teaching. You are not on the computer, you are not on your cell phone, you are not flicking through an Oriental Trading catalog. You are living ‘in the moment’, you are leading that lesson, or working with a group, or one on one, but you are wholly focused on your intention. When you are totally invested in what you are doing, you will enjoy teaching so much more.
Greet Students Enthusiastically
This is such a bug bear for me! How come we wave off our students enthusiastically at the end of the school year with banners and signs and balloons, but at the beginning of the year there is no one to be seen in the bus parking lot? What message does that send our students?
Obviously we can’t all be in the parking lot to greet the buses at the beginning of the year. We need to be in our classrooms. Let me say that again: WE NEED TO BE IN OUR CLASSROOMS. Every day, on time, we need to be there. it doesn’t matter how pretty your room is, how much time you spent putting up your llama decor, if you are not in the room none of it matters. You need to be there to greet each and every student with a smile, with a joke, with a welcome. Every day. No excuses. Don’t think that people don’t notice when you are late. They notice, and they talk. Parents, other teachers, administrators and most importantly your students.
Have Something Engaging to Start the Day
Don’t start with a worksheet. I know, it’s easy, but this is the first day of the rest of the year. Have something engaging for them to do. STEM tubs are a great opportunity for hands on learning. These All about Me Writing crafts are a neat way to share information without resorting to a worksheet.
Talk Don’t Email
In World War II there was a popular slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships”. I’m thinking along a similar theme but these days I would encourage you to talk to whoever you need to, rather than text or email. BIG RULE: NEVER EVER email about a student in your room to another co-worker, administrator or anyone else other than their parent. The information you have is confidential. If someone has a question about your student, tell them they can come and talk to you. We’ve all heard horror stories about how an email got mistakenly sent out on a ‘Reply All’, and it is easily done. If you need help, advice or just someone to vent to, go to that person and talk. I think this is just a good all round rule – talk don’t email or text when it comes to students.
I actually think it is a good rule to have with your teacher friends as well – just when you are all laughing about an incident involving another teacher, how awful would you feel about that text being seen by said teacher? Be professional at all times and be mindful of how someone would feel if they ever read that email you sent.
By following these six simple suggestions and choosing your actions and words carefully from day one in your classroom, you will set the right tone for you and your students for the year ahead. I hope it is the best one ever!