Starting the School Year Right

After spending some time this morning binge watching Netflix, I chose to continue to avoid my grad school reading by jotting down some ideas for this upcoming school year.

I’ve had an overall relaxing summer, and I have finally gotten to the point where I’m ready for the school year to begin. I’m ready to meet my new students and have a fantastic year. This year I will continue to co-teach in 5th grade with my amazing co-teacher. I’m looking forward to really growing with her this year since we already had one year together to become familiar with how each of us teaches.

I truly feel that the first day, and first week, of school is uber important. This day and week is the student’s first impression of you and your classroom. Often, it will set the bar for how they do the rest of the year, which is why I want to emphasize classroom community today.

Last year, I transitioned over to a special education role from a general ed. role in a new district (in a new state, I might add). I had a lot of stress in my personal life the first month of school, and I really felt like I let my students down when it came to classroom community because I was living on auto-pilot. My co-teacher definitely did things to foster a positive tone in the classroom, but I knew I had ideas to contribute! I kept them to myself because I was still getting to know this new teacher, school, and area.

Well, this year that will not be the case! I want to make sure that we are creating a positive learning environment from DAY ONE. I want students to know that they are scholars, ready to learn and grow, and be supported every step of the way.

Yesterday I had the honor to listen to Baruti Kafele, internationally renowned education speaker and author. The main theme I reflected on the entire time I listed to him resonated with everything I’ve always believed: the importance of RELATIONSHIPS.

How do you decrease office refferals? Through culture and commuity (RELATIONSHIPS).

How do you support students? You see them for who they are! And love them for it! (RELATIONSHIPS)

How do you promote growth in your classroom? You build your students up! Recognize their strengths and talents and support them! (RELATIONSHIPS).

Whenever I had interviews when I first started teaching, or when I moved districts, I was always asked how I deal with behaviors in the classroom or how I created a classroom community. I always responded with creating a rapport with my students. Of course I had plans in place for those situations that escalated, but you know what? If you take the time to get to know your students, it pays off. Create that classroom environment. Foster growth and positivity. Let your students know you care. If you start all of this from DAY ONE of the school year and continue it throughout the rest of the year, I promise you will see change.

One easy way to promote community is through literature. Books open doors for conversations. I absolutely love to read from the stories they tell, and I love to help students find stories that speak to them.

One great book to start off with at the beginning of the year is: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees.

You may be thinking: You read that children’s book to fifth graders?

Yes, yes I do. And I would probably read it to 12th graders, too. Children’s books are applicable all over. Also, if you are a high school teacher, try children’s books. I bet your students would enjoy them.

Giraffes Can’t Dance lets students know that they are capable of anything. Just because someone tells you you can’t do something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try (not in terms of breaking the law or anything serious like that–please avoid that). Imagine telling a student they can’t do math, or read, or write. By doing that you have already set them up for failure. Encourage students to be the best they can be. Take risks. Try new things. Try again if you fail.

We need to support our students. We need to them coming to school wanting to learn and grow, and we can do that by creating a classroom environment that fosters that!

Here’s to looking forward to another school year! I’m going to begin incorporating more blogs about teaching on this site, but I’ll still continue to throw in some other things here and there.

Thanks for reading!

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