Tag Archives: Beginning of the School Year

Great Start to a New Year

For many of you school has begun, and for the rest of you it will begin this week. It is such an exciting time for everyone. New beginnings! Everyone involved has some level of stress associated with beginning a new school year, parents, administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and yes, custodial staff. I’ve now been out of the classroom for my 3rd year, but my excitement and passion for success for all is still alive. I want to wish you all the best year ever.

If I may, a few points of advice:

  1. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more. Have a Plan A, Plan B, and a Plan C. This goes for everything content and non-content related. I know it’s difficult enough to have a documented lesson plan that’s required by your administrators or your subject leaders that must contain an enormous amount of detail, but having an informal outline, list of resources, and list of questions and activities for your “backups” is a must.
  2. Be flexible and don’t let’em see you sweat. On a school-wide scale, many new schedules and procedures are put into place, be it lunchroom schedule, recess and break schedule, traffic patterns or bus release plan. Show patience and flexibility to handle things when they don’t go according to the desired plan. When working with hundreds of students at a time with many factors in play that can affect the execution of the plan, “stuff” happens. Keep in mind that the students’ safety and well-being is your first priority. Keep a cool head, keep the students under control and happy, keep a smile and everything will work out.
  3. Stay on top of things as they come in. The beginning of the year is a busy, busy time; however, there are critical deadlines that need to be met. This may include the return of student paperwork/information, schedule changes, work requests, parent correspondence, website authoring, setting up grade book, and any required online courses/learning activities.
  4. Give EVERY student a chance. Please, regardless of what you know about your students before they enter your classroom, allow each and every student a clean slate. Provide them an opportunity to make a change if it’s in their hearts. Too often students simply live up to the expectations we set for them. If you truly want your students to live up to their potential, let them start fresh. With that said, I want to caution you on saying one thing to the whole class because it sounds great, but treat individual students differently when others are not around. There’s no faster way to break the trust of not only that one student, but virtually every student you teach and everyone they know. Word will get around that your word is no good, and it will stick with students forever.
  5. Rely on your professional peers and administrators. Ask for help when you need it. Find those peers that welcome questions and discussion. Brainstorm with subject-similar colleagues for instructional and disciplinary strategies. Don’t fall into the pit of the negative talk and gossip. Everyone has problems. Find solutions for yourself and listen other’s problems when they need it. Realize that you should only provide advice to those peers who want to listen to your suggestions; otherwise it will fall on deaf ears and potentially fuel jealousy and animosity. Educators should behave as a team, but as in every team, not everyone is a team player.

I hope this helps you have a great new year. Please send me your questions or concerns. I’m here for you. I can be a sounding board and someone you can brainstorm with. I taught middle school math/algebra for 10 years. I’m happy to help. Best of luck!

 

Shannon Richards

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Back To School Time


Wow, that time has rolled around yet again. Each and every year the summers seem to get shorter and shorter. The funny thing is, I’m not in the classroom any longer, yet I feel remorseful for my fellow teachers having to go back to work tomorrow. It seems like they just closed out the school year! I truly hope everyone had a restful and enjoyable summer break. But if you have to go back, here are a few words of wisdom I’d like to pass along.

 

(1) Have a Plan!

Have a plan for everything, from how you will greet the students that first time, to how students will interact with one another, to how students will complete assignments, to how you will manage students outside your classroom. Make these plans as simple as possible, with clear language for students to understand. Do not make a plan to simply say you have a plan for something. Make each and every rule, procedure, and routine purposeful and worthwhile. You should be able to justify to anyone why you do what you do, and how it positively affects the learning of your students. The plans you put in place set the tone for your instruction. Have a plan that promotes a positive and safe learning environment for all!

(2) Steal from New and Old

It is often thought that the “veteran” teachers have all the great ideas, the tried and true. I’ve met a few amazing new teachers in my time that are excellent counterexamples to that idea. During pre-planning time, roam the school, peek into a variety of classrooms, both within your content/grade and out. It’s amazing what you will find. Don’t feel awkward about going in and asking those teachers why they do what they do. They are more than happy sharing with you! It’s the best compliment a teacher can get. Any conversation that begins with, “I like what you have done with… How do you utilize that with your students?” It’s amazing what great ideas come out of conversations such as this, for both parties. It’s through this type of sharing and collaboration that teachers get stronger, communities within the school are built, and students prosper. It’s not a competition. Everyone is in it for the same end result….student success! So SHARE AND ASK QUESTIONS!!!!

(3) Get Organized

Take the time to think about what will be coming in, going out, and staying. By this I mean anything from papers (both from students, parents, and the school office), textbooks and resources, and classroom supplies.

  • Consider color coding the categories you have defined as the most frequent. I remembered that my system consisted of student related materials were in yellow file folders, administrative materials were in red, and parent documentation was in green. These certainly were not the only categories I had, but they were the most prevalent. Take the time to clear out a file cabinet, or even just a plastic file bin, to help to get the organization system under way. I recommend investing a few extra dollars in the box of 5-color file folders. Only use these for such organization, and not for other projects….that would defeat the color coding system.
  • I would also recommend a single manila file folder, one per student, labeled by last name, per class period, to store any documentation that may need to be collected. This could involve signed documents from parents, grade reports, discipline notes, and student work. These are amazing resources to have during a parent conference.
  • In addition to a single file folder per child, I would create a single parent contact sheet per student you teach, organized either by class period or by last name. This sheet should be populated with parent contact information, including names of parents/guardians, phone numbers, and email addresses. These can be easily stored in a small binder. Each time contact home is made, it should be recorded on that student’s sheet. This allows a running log to be kept throughout the year. Once a week, I would recommend making 3-5 additional positive phone calls to student’s parents/guardians randomly selected from the binder. This helps build that bridge between home and school for many students.
  • (These are just a few…keep posted for new entries to this section. I could write a book on just this aspect of teaching)
(4) Assign Seats
       Some may disagree with me on this one, but I did teach middle school. Seating charts are an absolute must for more than 3/4 of the school year, and in some cases the entire school year. Yes, they are a pain, especially if you don’t know your students just yet. Alphabetizing students the first few weeks does make learning names and accounting for all of your students easier, but realize that your peer teachers may be doing so as well. Your students may get quite familiar with each other sooner than you anticipate, thus increasing the chance of classroom disruptions. Consider an alternative method that makes things just as easy on you. Computer grading systems that can be set up to take attendance that has an editable floor plan capability are a great help, especially if these floor plans can be printed with the students’ names in the “furniture”. Other plans can be less-tech with the use of blank floor plan layouts and writing in students names, or with the use of post-it notes with student’s names on each so they can be moved around accordingly. (I’d suggest the super sticky ones!)
I’m going to pause here for this entry. I will be adding more details to these ideas soon.
You really can’t make a second first impression. How you begin the first 3-5 weeks really sets the tone for the whole year. Yes it’s difficult. I won’t lie. I encourage you to stay strong throughout the beginning-of-the-year period, stick to your plan, procedures and routines.
Please post your comments, questions, and suggestions. I’d love for this to be a community and a network where teachers are free share ideas and ask questions as needed. I wish you all the best as you prepare to welcome your new group of students. Good luck!

Middle Ground Magazine – Great Article

Check out the NMSA article, “The Power of Positive Relationshis” posted under the blogroll or linked below.  It’s a great read for the beginning of the school year. You’ll want to bookmark this site for sure!

http://www.nmsa.org/Publications/MiddleGround/Articles/August2010/Article2/tabid/2232/Default.aspx

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