August: It’s BAAAAAAACKKKKK! I always marvel at how fast the summer goes. It doesn’t matter whether you have been teaching for 20 years or if this is your first time at the rodeo, the first few weeks of school are the most crucial. You are setting the tone for the entire year, and it is imperative to have a great start. Good classroom management is one of the most important qualities of being an effective teacher. So, as you soak up the last few days of summer, here are some tips to ensure a successful year.
- Establish a Relationship: Your students and parents need to know you care from day one. I start off by smiling—a lot—even if I have to “fake it ‘til I make it!” Smiling lets people know you are friendly and approachable. Let families know how excited you are about the school year by sending them a letter or an email. Your lessons the first week or two of school should be filled with games and/or friendship activities to help you get acquainted.
- The Details: Think about as many classroom procedures as you can before you step foot in the door and figure out a plan for them. Do you want your students getting up in the middle of a lesson to grab a Kleenex or sharpen their pencil? What will the morning look like when they walk into the classroom? What about when they need to go to the bathroom? Write all of these procedures down and be sure to note what your expectations are. Then teach it to them—day after day…after day! This may sound overzealous, but I also created instructional videos to help kids understand the procedures. My students from the prior year help me video the routines (which they love), and it helps ease the transition for my incoming students.
- Be Consistent: You must be consistent all year long. Decide what your consequences are and stick to them. Engaging your students in this process creates a team-building experience and a sense of community. Of course, you can guide their answers—for example, have students brainstorm unwanted/wanted behaviors. When they mention hitting or being physical, ask them what the consequence should be. Usually, you will get the answer you want and/or you can paraphrase with your own wording, and then you can teach them the expectations and consequences.
- Incentives: I know I may ruffle a few feathers about this one since there are many different schools of thought regarding rewards. But after teaching for 21 years—including 5th grade, 3rd grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten—I can tell you it works! Many critics say students need to build an intrinsic desire for appropriate behaviors, but sometimes a little extrinsic reward helps build the intrinsic (think: paychecks, new cars, vacations, pedicures, happy hour). For younger kids, goodie boxes with stickers, tattoos, pencils, and erasers are a great way to go. Older kids may prefer extra recess, free homework passes, lunch outside with friends, pajama day, or even time to play their favorite learning app.
- Be Firm but Friendly: This age-old saying is so true. Let them know you care, but also let them know they are not going to get away with inappropriate behaviors. By creating a loving relationship with your students, you are teaching them what mutual respect is. Respecting one another deepens your relationship, allowing for better communication and success.
- Parent Communication: Do not be afraid to contact parents. Let them know you are working together as a team to ensure the best possible year for their child. If you have built a good relationship with parents, then delivering hard news will be that much easier. Always start the conversation off with some positives, and then gently tell parents any concerns you have. Be sure to follow up—when you see the slightest move in the right direction, let them know!
Above all, remember that parents are sending you the best they’ve got. So, take a deep breath, practice patience, and put in the effort to lay the foundation in August. Then watch your students soar and be successful throughout the school year!
Looking for more tips and resources from fellow educators? Check out MimioConnect, our interactive teaching community!