September is springtime for teachers: everything is fresh and new. As we think about gearing up for a new school year, here are a few tips to help us navigate the busy, sometimes overwhelming job of managing a classroom.
Start off the year strongly and clearly
Students benefit from clear expectations. Be sure to establish and maintain classroom routines and systems that support students in meeting these expectations. You must be prepared and convey confidence. Stand tall and know that even your posture can make you feel more confident and strong. It makes a difference in how others perceive you, too.
In the first days and weeks of school, make it a priority to take time to discuss community expectations, including appropriate behavior, punctuality and good work habits. Mutual expectations must be clearly understood, stated positively (“Respect materials,” as opposed to “Do not destroy or deface materials”) and developed with input from all community members. Invite students to share opinions to help build clarity and buy-in.
Connect with students
Although every day is busy, it is worth the time it takes to slow down and speak to students on a personal level. This may take many forms, from small groups of students who may stay for after-school tutoring to talking to a student for a few minutes after class to ask about how things are going at home.
It means so much to students if they know their teacher is on their side. Checking in about their pet or their weekend sports events can speak volumes. Students who feel connected to their teachers are more interested and invested students.
Personal connections can also help teachers leverage students’ strengths: The better teachers know each individual student, the better they can form effective, supportive student partnerships and groups.
Keep communication open and positive
It is crucial to keep lines of communication open and positive with students, parents, administrators, colleagues, counselors and others who can help support your students’ learning and behavior.
Share positive communication with all involved, even with students who pose challenges. A positive note home about a specific delightful moment or a quick email with a photo of a beaming student showing off a project can be a valuable positive deposit in the communication bank.
Learn from colleagues
When behavior issues come up, consider checking in with colleagues. Ask about how they deal with tricky students, how they set up efficient classroom routines or how they manage transitions effectively. If possible, visit some classes to observe teachers whose management you admire. Take advantage of trainings and professional development that you feel would be helpful to you.
It can be incredibly enlightening to keep anecdotal records. Be sure to keep them in one easy-to-access place (a note on your phone or in your plan book) and that you keep the dates and times on each entry.
When you take careful notes on student behavior, it is much easier to notice patterns. Is a particular student always on edge just before or after physical education class? Do your observations show that a child who values structure has a hard time on field trips? If you notice patterns, you can work to be more proactive in problem-solving with the student.
Do your best to model good behavior
Although it is not easy to model patience and thoughtfulness in the busy classroom environment, students learn by observation. If they have a teacher who models respect and understanding, they are more likely to reflect these qualities. If we ask students not to yell or interrupt, we must do our best to model such behavior.
Make it a priority to live a healthy lifestyle and create reasonable boundaries in your life. You will be a better teacher if you are a balanced human being. Do your best to get the rest you need. Get outside (with your class, too, when you can).
Breathe in. Breathe out. You’ve got this.