How New Teachers Can Get the School Year off to a Great Start
All teachers need to start the school year strong, especially newer teachers facing the added pressures of learning the culture of their new schools, enduring a more intense observation process and introducing themselves to the community. If you’re new to the job, these tactics can improve your chances of getting off to a great start that leads to success for the entire school year:
Work hard to connect
Teaching, at its core, is about developing strong relationships. This is especially important when you’re working with students and their families. A personalized letter to each child and their parents introducing the class, the year’s activities and your background will help build the foundation of cooperation you’re looking for in your classroom.
With today’s technology, it’s easy to create a personalized letter to send home to the parents. As a part of that letter, consider redirecting the family to your website for further information. By linking your paper communication to your online presence, you’re helping to establish your expectations for where students and families will find information about your class.
Stating expectations is better than imposing rules
Class and student behavior typically is the greatest concern for new teachers. To succeed as a teacher, you have to be able to motivate your students to make positive choices that enable their learning processes.
While the option of ruling with an iron fist is always out there, you’re far better off sharing your expectations with your students and their families instead of listing all the rules they have to follow. I’ve worked in some pretty challenging settings, and I’ve found that most students like and respect teachers and classrooms that like and respect them.
Stay positive (all the time)
What you say in conversations and reveal via body language represent the most powerful ways to introduce yourself to students, colleagues and communities. Focus on being as positive as possible all of the time. There will be frustrations and setbacks in your work, and your new colleagues will pay attention to how you respond. Work hard to fix anything that might arise, and resist the urge to complain.
Focus on asking questions rather than stating your views about your new school, students and colleagues. By being curious and open to learning more, you send a message about your personality and approach to learning that goes much farther than you can go by merely having your say.
Learn about your students
Assumptions are poison to the new teacher. Rather than imagine you know where your children are from an academic and social perspective, take some time to confirm their content understanding and personal approach to learning by collecting some early data about them.
This could be in the form of a diagnostic test, student survey or an ice-breaker activity. Regardless of what you decide to do, be sure to tell your students it’s being done so you can learn more about them, and therefore help them more.
Present the big picture
Many students feel frustrated that their classes and homework seem like a series of unrelated or short-term activities. Be sure to set the stage for a successful year by telling everyone — students, parents and colleagues — about the larger concepts and skills behind your class activities.
Seeing a road map to the entire year will increase student motivation, respect their time and help with parent participation. It’s essential to send the signal that you have a plan for the year, and you expect everyone to take part.