7 Ways for Teachers to Start the New School Year Strong
A brand new school year brings a lot of excitement with it. Where will your classroom be? What will your students be like? How many amazing things are going to happen this year? Though you likely have some concerns associated with the new school year, it’s best to focus on the things that get you excited and passionate. Being proactive from the start will help you to start the new school year strong, and it will set the tone for your students right from the start. You may have a few of your own checklists or to-dos that you like to integrate into the start of a new school year, but be sure to check off these seven items from our list to ensure you are starting the new year right.
Set the Standards Right Away
We’re talking open house or first day of school here. Set the standards immediately. Make sure your students walk out of your classroom for the very first time with a clear idea of your expectations for the year. This should include their behavior, their work ethic, your policies and procedures, and more. They should know that you will not accept disruption, late work, or cheating, and their parents should know it too. You may wish to create an entire document full of your standards and expectations to go over on the first day of class, and you can even have students take it home and get it signed for a grade. Remember that you can always loosen the reins a little once you’ve established a good rapport with your students, but it’s much harder to tighten things up after your students see you as a nice or “easy” teacher. We’re not suggesting you be harsh or rude from the start, but you should set the standards and establish the expectations right away so your students and their parents know that you mean business. In addition to discussing your expectations with your students and their parents, it’s also a good idea to have the main point behind each standard posted in your classroom. This can even be effective for older students who may need a regular reminder of what they agreed to on that first day of the new school year.
“Sell” Your Class
Students always come into a new class with some level of expectation regarding what the class is about and how easy or hard it will be. Some teachers have a reputation for being easy or hard, or the class itself may seem like an easy A or a class that’s impossible to pass. No matter where you or your class stand on the scale of what students think, it’s important to sell your class at the start of each year, particularly if you teach middle school or high school. Students naturally take some classes more seriously while they unintentionally view others as classes they don’t have to try very hard in, and you want to ensure that not only are you providing a valuable education to your students, but you also want them to see the value in your class. Explain why the skills you teach are vital to their future success, have them begin the year with a project regarding what skills they expect to learn in your class, or find another way to show them how important your class is. When you combine this idea of “selling” your class with setting expectations right from the start, you’ll more likely have invested students who see the value in your class and who are happy to uphold your standards and meet your expectations.
Establish Good Communication
Communication with parents, colleagues, and administrators is of the utmost importance, particularly at the start of a new school year. Tell your parents how you can be contacted and be responsive when they do try to get in touch with you. Make sure you know what is expected of you as a colleague and employee, and be open and honest about concerns, questions, or any issues that arise throughout the year. Establishing good communication with those you must interact with will serve you as the year goes on. The more you can establish a good rapport and let others know you are there for them, the better your year will be.
Interact with Students with Intentionality
You will never know all that your students are going through outside of your classroom, and you need to be conscious of that from the beginning. Some may dread coming to school because their home life is so amazing, while others may view school as a safe place that is free from the struggles and stresses of their home life. No matter what you get from your students in terms of behavior, work ethic, and so on, you should strive to interact with every student on a daily basis in the most positive way you can. It may be something as simple as complimenting their effort on a paper or mentioning that you like their shoes, or it may be more serious, like asking them if they are alright after a long weekend or offering to tutor them to help bring their grade up. Try to ensure that each student in your class gets something positive from you each day, even if it’s an incredible challenge to do so. Some students are used to getting nothing but negative feedback and criticism and scolding, and you may be the only person in a student’s life who offers them any sort of hope or encouragement, so don’t be choosy about who you interact with in a positive manner. Also, beginning your year this way will show your students that you truly care about them as people, which will likely lead to more investment in your class and more respect for you as a person and as an educator.
This should go without saying, but do whatever it takes to get yourself as organized as possible before the new school year starts. We all know that the first week of school can derail even the most glorious organizational systems with its chaos, exhaustion, and unforeseen circumstances. Because of that, it’s best to start off with the most organization you can muster, and don’t be afraid to rework your organizational system when you sense something isn’t working. Staying organized is not only important to making the most of your teaching and personal time, but it’s also important for your sanity and your ability to feel good about each school day. Organization in the classroom is multi-faceted, so be sure to consider all the different ways you need to be organized before school starts this fall, from your own desk to students’ assignments to your physical classroom and more.
It’s usually not extremely hard to be positive at the start of a new school year, but you should aim to maintain that positive attitude all year long. Students feed off of their environments, and you want to create a positive atmosphere in your classroom where students feel comfortable, productive, and encouraged. Like we mentioned above, you may be the only positive influence in a student’s life, and it may be far more important than you realize that you are a positive light in the life of your students. Encourage them to do their best, take an optimistic approach to even the most mundane things, and show appreciation for the opportunities you have and for your educational impact on their lives.
Allow for Personal Time
The beginning of each school year tends to be very fast-paced, but even in the midst of all you have to do, you need to allow for some personal time. This may be going for a run after school, pampering yourself on the weekends, or simply putting work away for a while to spend some time with family. You are more than just a teacher, and you need to make time for yourself to ensure you can be the best teacher possible for your students.
Following all of these tips on how teachers can start the new school year strong will help you have the best fall yet. Your students will enjoy and appreciate you, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy and appreciate your students as well. Embrace these tips and get the tasks completed early, and you’ll set yourself up for an amazing start to a new school year that will only get better with each passing day.