Have a Plan

So the first day of school is here! Do you have a plan … for everything? As a teacher, the one skill you can never under utilize is creating a plan for events that have not yet happened. Think of this as an extra level of planning that is just as important as planning the lessons for instruction themselves. Having a plan for what “might” happen will make your life so much easier when the need arise. What am I talking about? I’m referring to the following situations, of which most veteran teachers have experienced at some point in their teaching career:

  • What if the busses are late arriving to school in the A.M. or the P.M. and you have students straggling into your homeroom/first period or staying with you for an extended period of time in your last period?
  • What happens when your students receive textbooks 2 weeks late? Teaching still must happen. Are you prepared to teach without having a book for students to refer to?
  • How are students going to go to their locker? If you work in a newer school where the hallway width is minimal, including hundreds of lockers, every student will not be able to access their locker during the same change of class. Would designated locker times alleviate over crowding and tardiness? How would these locker times be assigned? By grade? By teams? By location in the building? By top locker/middle locker/bottom locker? How will this be conveyed to students? What penalty will be in place if students go at a time that is not theirs?
  • You have just gone over the procedure for walking to the next class/auditorium/gym/cafeteria. The time has come for students to transition, and students cannot go according to the procedure. Reason could be there are too many students in the hallway at some point along the path students were going to take; the procedure involved going outside, but now it’s raining; or it simply is not the most efficient route. What is your Plan B? Plan C? How will you communicate this to all individuals effected by this change, i.e. students, fellow teachers, and administrators?
  • What happens if there is a fire or inclement weather on the first day? (This HAS happened to me on the first day, in fact a fire and a tornado watch.) How will the emergency procedures be handled by the school, your grade, and your team?
  • What happens if a parent wishes to accompany their child on their first day of school and your administrative staff has permitted this? Are you prepared to have a parent visitor?

These situations are on top of the usual situations you have a plan for, such as

  • Where are students going to sit on the first day? I recommend not allowing them to sit where they want. Having a plan, whether it’s using number cards with matching number on the desk, a seat assignment displayed, or other random seating technique, it’s the first instance where students see that you are organized and one step ahead of them.
  • How will you pass out materials?
  • How will you collect materials?
  • How will students turn in assignments?
  • What will you do if students do not have the proper supplies, i.e. paper, pencil, or book?
  • If you allow students to borrow materials, what is your plan for administering the return of these items?
  • What will be your plan for students leaving and returning to your classroom?
  • Teaching students the importance of keeping their area, and entire classroom, clean and orderly starts on the first day. What activities do you want students to do on a per class period basis to ensure this happens? Will you reward students who do their part?
  • How will students move from one location to another? Will you require them to be in a straight line? (highly recommended) Will there be traffic pattern requirements, such as only walking on the right-side of the hallway or one-way hallways?
  • How will students have assigned tables/area at lunch? How will you collect students after lunch? I recommend lining them up and checking their area to insure cleanliness.
  • How will you dismiss students?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself and work out at least one plan before the first day students arrive. Plans can always be modified as needed, but it’s not best practices to keep changing plans simply because they do not work the first go around. Students will often see this as a sign of weakness and become the culprit in sabotaging your plans. Consult fellow teachers on your team, hallway, or school, as well as administrators to get assistance in creating solid plans that will create an environment that is structured and focused on learning.

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