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Going back to school after the summer break can be exciting, nerve-racking, and hectic for teachers. The summertime is a time for refreshment and renewal. That is important as the beginning of the school year is the most critical time of the year and it can also be the most stressful. Even during the time off, most teachers are looking for ways to improve their class for the upcoming year. Going back to school gives teachers a chance to make small adjustments or significant changes depending on where they are at in their careers.
Most veteran teachers have a pretty decent idea of what they need to do to get ready for the new school year. They typically plan to make a few minor tweaks to their overall approach. Younger teachers may totally revamp their approach to how they teach based on their small sample of experience. First-year teachers often come in excited and with no real idea of what it takes to teach. They have ideas that they think will work only to realize quickly that the application of those ideas is much more difficult than the theory of them. No matter where a teacher is in their career, here are some tips that will help them transition back to school quickly and effectively.
Reflect on the Past
Experience is the ultimate learning tool. First-year teachers will only have their limited experience as a student teacher on which they can rely. Unfortunately, this small sample does not provide them with much information. Veteran teachers will tell you that you learn more in the first few weeks as a teacher than you did during your entire time in a teacher education program. For teachers with at least one year of experience, reflecting on the past can be a valuable tool.
Great teachers are constantly looking for new ideas and methods to apply to their classroom. You should never be afraid to try a new approach, but understand that sometimes it works, sometimes it needs tweaking, and sometimes it will need to be thrown out altogether. Teachers must rely on their experiences when it comes to all aspects of their classroom. A teacher must allow experiences, both good and bad, to guide their overall approach to teaching.
It Is a New Year
Never come into a school year or classroom with preconceived notions. Every student who walks into your classroom deserves the chance to come in with a clean slate. Teachers may pass along pertinent educational information such as standardized test scores to the next teacher, but they should never pass along information about how a particular student or class behaves. Every class and every student is unique, and a different teacher may get other behavior.
A teacher who has preconceived notions can be detrimental to the overall development of a particular student or a group of students. Teachers should want to make judgments about a student or a group of students based on their own unique experiences with them and not those from another teacher. Sometimes a teacher can have a personality conflict with a particular student or class and you never want that to cloud how the next teacher handles their class.
Every teacher should have a set of expectations or goals that they want their students to reach. Teachers should also have a list of personal goals to improve in specific areas of weakness that they have. Having goals of any kind will give you something to work towards. It is also okay to set goals together with your students. Having a shared set of goals will push both teacher and students to work harder to obtain those goals.
It is okay that goals be adjusted either way as the year moves along. Sometimes your goals may be too easy for a particular student or class and sometimes they may be too difficult. It is essential that you set high goals and expectations for all your students. Just remember that every student has their own unique needs. The goals you set for one student, may not be applicable for another.
Being prepared is the most important aspect of teaching. Teaching is not an 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. job as many people outside the realm of teaching may think. It takes a lot of extra time and preparation to do your job effectively. The first day of school for students should never be a teacher's first day. It takes a lot of time to get ready for school to start. There is a lot of work that needs to be done with both your classroom and your instructional material. A smooth year begins with preparation. A teacher who waits until the last moment to get everything ready is setting themselves up for a rough year. Young teachers need more preparation time than veteran teachers, but even veteran teachers must spend quite a bit of time preparing for the upcoming school year if they plan to have a fantastic year.
Set the Tone
The first few days and weeks of school will often set the tone for the entire school year. Respect is often won or lost in those first few days and weeks. A teacher should seize that opportunity to establish a solid rapport with their students, but at the same time respectively show them who is in charge. A teacher who comes in with the mindset that they want every student to like them will lose respect quickly, and it will be a difficult year. It is virtually impossible to gain a classes respect as an authoritarian back once you have lost it.
Use those first few days and weeks to drill components such as procedures, expectations, and goals. Start out hard as the classroom disciplinarian and then you can ease off as you move throughout the year. Education is a marathon and not a sprint. Do not think that you cannot spend the time to set the tone for the school year. Make these things a priority early and your students will learn more in the long run.
Getting parents to trust that you have their child's best interest in mind is paramount. Make extra efforts to contact parents several times within the first few weeks of school. In addition to classroom notes or newsletters, try to contact each parent personally early on by setting up parent meetings, calling them on the phone, emailing them, conducting a home visit, or inviting them up for an open room night. Establishing trustworthy relationships with parents early on when things are going good will make it easier should you begin to have issues. Parents can be your biggest ally, and they can be your biggest enemy. Investing the time and effort early on to win them to your side will make you more effective.
All teachers should plan ahead. It is not easy, but planning does become easier as experience is gained. For example, a teacher can save lots of time by keeping lesson plans from the previous year so that they can use them for the upcoming year. Instead of redeveloping their lesson plans, they make adjustments to them as needed. Teachers can also make copies for several weeks or months of work before school begins. Planning events such as fundraisers and field trips before school starts will save time later. Planning ahead will be beneficial if an emergency occurs and you have to be gone for an extended period of time. Planning also tends to make the overall course of the school year go smoother.