Summer break is almost over. Are you ready for the first day of school? …Was that a groan?
The first day of school can be just as daunting for teachers as it is for students. Those first-day jitters are normal – and they’re good! They mean that you still care deeply about what you’re doing and are nervous about the challenges this year might hold.
It’s going to be okay. Start by asking yourself these questions to get a fresh perspective for the best school year ever.
Let’s start with an easy category:
Yep, desks and chairs are there, all in a row. Check.
Wait a minute … Could it be arranged in a way that enhances the lesson you are trying to teach? What changes should you make to facilitate collaboration, thinking, and learning? Should the classroom arrangement be changed to accommodate group projects or discussions?
Let’s go further with that idea – how can you expand the walls of the classroom to include all of the school and even the community to present the best learning environment to your students?
One down! Let’s try another:
2. Lesson Plans
Yep, there are all of those from last year – and even some from the years before – laminated and ready to go. Check.
But wait… Have you learned new things about that subject you teach? Are you always open to inspiration from something you’ve read or heard or seen? Do you take risks or allow your students to help you to see things differently and present a concept that you can develop into a new project together? Are you engaging your students?
There are probably some lessons that didn’t go exactly as you had planned last year, so take a moment now to rethink and improve them.
Maybe a blank page can be developed into a fresh and exciting learning activity for that first day of school.
Okay, now you’re on a roll:
Yes, there are 25 kids registered for each class. Check.
But are they really excited about being in my class? Wow, this might be a difficult question for a teacher to answer. But they’re why we do this, right? Are you open to learning from your students, do you listen to them and make changes to meet their needs? How can you engage them in conversation and find out what their needs are? Is your attitude toward the class effective for student learning? How are you going to learn at least something about each of your students?
Would you like to be a student in your class?
That was a tough one. Let’s change perspectives:
Right, that’s you. Check.
Are you actually excited to be going back into the classroom? What new techniques are you incorporating into your teaching? Are you challenging students who are successful and reaching out to cultivate curiosity in struggling students? Is your attitude toward your students effective in promoting thinking and learning?
Are you taking care of yourself to make sure that stress and frustration don’t destroy your effectiveness as a teacher? Is reflection part of your daily routine? Do you take time for your friends and family as well as your students?
Okay, we’re almost done:
All those other teachers and administrators. Yep, they’ll be there. Check.
Is it time to do more than just eat lunch together? Have you tried to foster relationships that are beneficial in creating a partnership for learning? How can you support your colleagues this year in helping their students succeed? Do you work with the administration as a student advocate in planning curriculum? Do you belong to any professional education organizations and share information learned through those contacts with your colleagues? How can your colleagues assist you in attaining the goals you have set for this new school year?
Never forget the reason you became a teacher. Whether your career started 20 years ago or just last year, know that you have the ability to make a difference in a child’s life. Never stop questioning how you can do that better every year, from the first day of school to the last.