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Go Slow at the Beginning of the Year So Your Students Can Go Fast Later

Welcome back to a new year of students and teaching!

For some of you, this will be your first group of students and they will make a lasting impact on your teaching journey. Enjoy the time you have with them because it will go fast. It may not seem like it through the long winter months or standardized testing, but you have the opportunity this year to making a lasting impact on your students as well.

Build Relationships

You have to go slow to move fast later in the year. The first few weeks of school should be used to get to know your students, practice routines and solidify expectations for the classroom. Kids will learn and cooperate best when they feel known in the classroom and the relationships you build will become the foundation of your classroom community.

  • Use this time at the beginning of the year to have some fun with your students. Try some team building activities such as the human knot, relay races, etc. to help build a sense of community in the classroom. 
  • Move these activities into your content areas and discuss how to work in collaborative groups. Don’t assume that students know how to do this well. If you want students to work in groups throughout the year, take time to practice how this will run and how students should communicate with one another that is respectful. 

There is so much going on at this time of year, but remember that once you get to know your students, and once they know your routines, you will be ready to hit the ground running in your content areas.

Seek Guidance

Ask for and utilize a mentor. Good mentors will listen to you when your day has been horrible, give you “veteran teacher advice,” introduce you to staff members and review school and district-wide policies, so you don’t have to use what little time you have studying the district handbook. Administration, no matter how good, will not always have time to answer your questions (and you will have several), so make sure you take advantage of this resource.

Your mentor can also help you with little things, such as how to set up your grade book, find resources that you might need, use the copy machine and other nuances of the building that would be foreign a new teacher. Your mentor will also give you insight into the culture of the building as well as any advice about working staff members. They can also help you with curriculum planning and pacing guides. So, make sure to buy your mentor some coffee or a simple thank you note for taking the time to help you out.

Set Clear Expectations

It is essential to set the tone for the year on the first day of school. You are in charge of your students’ education and their parents trust you to take care of their children throughout the day. 

It is our responsibility to make sure all students are in an environment where they can learn. Set clear, firm and loving expectations with your students to help ensure that everyone has a successful year. Be consistent so you can earn the respect of your students.

Treat all students fairly and expect them to abide by the social contract you have created together. This practice will pay off exponentially as the year goes on. 

I hope you have a fantastic first week of school! You will have ups and downs this year, but so will your students. They will give you grace when your lesson fails, and you will give them grace as you guide them through this school year.

Take some time during your first few weeks to rest when you get home as getting back into “teacher shape” takes a little while. No matter how long you have been a teacher, you are still exhausted but also renewed after a successful first week of teaching. Enjoy the journey!

A version of this post originally appeared on Teaching for God's Glory as "The First Days of School—Top 3 Things Teachers Can Do to Start the Year off Right!".
Tyler Harms is a special education teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has over 10 years of experience teaching at the elementary and secondary level. To follow Tyler or find out more tips for teachers check out www.teachforgodsglory.com

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