Back to School: 5 Tips to Beginning the Year with the End in Mind.

BEGIN with the END in mind.  I have taken that thought to heart, so I’m writing down some of my thoughts from the end of the school year in hopes that it will impact the beginning of next year.  The end of each school year brings a moment of reflection for me.  What went well?  What didn’t go well?  What was a mess?  What was wonderful?  If you teach, I think that moment of reflection is absolutely necessary.  That alone will help you grow as a teacher more than hours and hours of professional development or staff meetings.

Get to know at least one personal thing about each kid as early as possible.

I got this advice from The Well-Balanced Teacher by Mike Anderson (here on Amazon), an audio book I listened to a while back.  He suggests listing your students from memory, in the order that they come to mind.  This shows you who your “under the radar” kids are, because they will probably be the last on your list.  Then he suggests to list next to each one a personal connection with the kid.  Maybe it’s their favorite show, toy, song, or sport.  Maybe it’s something you have in common.  Then, when you have a moment throughout the day, you have something to build on, to begin a relationships with them beyond the lessons of a normal day.  For example, I realized Eliana loved music.  Then, we talked about her favorite singers.  Then she told me she wants to be a pop star when she grows up (oh man…).  Then, I suggested we do a Kids Bop video during choice time.  And it goes on and on, building a friendship and memories together.  I don’t have to tell you how that impacts the education of a student!  Those connections are critical!

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Start each day by telling the students the schedule for the day.  

This became even more important this year because I had a few students with autism who clung to that schedule like their lives depended on it.  But every kid, especially a five year old, likes to know what’s coming.  They like surprises too, however.  So I would start every morning meeting with something like, “We have a normal day today- circle, reading, choice time, lunch and recess, math, snack, gym, science, and dismissal.  But, I’m NOT going to tell you what we’re doing in math today because you’re going to be SO surprised.”  That little unknown mystery can keep them excited for hours.  I love that little trick.  It adds a lot of joy to the day!

I used this flip chart during our morning meeting and this editable specialist schedule to keep organized in this area!

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Listen to what your students are saying. 

Not what you think they’re implying or what you expect them to say.  It is always faster, more efficient, and more compassionate to just take the time on the front end to listen to them.  This is especially true in social situations.  Aren’t we all guilty of the shrug off at times?

“Ben said I was mean!” cries a child to you during choice time.

Don’t Say: “Okay, I’ll talk to him.”  Or “Tell him to be nice.”

Do Say: “Let’s go figure it out together.”

In the end, it would be so much more useful to bite the bullet, take the time, and go and really help the kids solve the problem.

Do not pick up after them. 

Yes, you want a clean classroom.  And yes, you share a room with 25 crumby, crafty, glittery, sticky little five-year-olds.  But you CAN have a clean room.  You just have to insist on it and set your standard high.  I am learning this from my coworker, Sharon.  Her room is spotless, so that you’d think she didn’t have a class in there day after day.  But I know for a fact that she’s doing all the same cutting, gluing, glittering, painting, and coloring that I am in my room!  So she taught me something so valuable this year.  She teaches the kids to clean and makes it a game.  It’s a high expectation.  We don’t move on until it’s clean.

I also started using the phrase, “Your ticket to the [insert playground, lining up, circle rug, wherever you’re going next] is 10 things off the floor!”  Then they show me their ten scraps like they’re giving me their movie stub.  It worked wonders and the kids became so good at it.  Your engineers or janitors will thank you!

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My class on a quite clean day!

If a behavior bothers you, address it early.

I am guilty of putting behaviors on the back burner until “it gets to be a real problem.”  If it’s bothering you and changing how you think of a child, then address it.  Sometimes a simple conversation with the child is all it will take.  Address it early and often, and then move on.  If a conversation doesn’t fix the problem, I usually use this behavior chart as a first line of defense.  And a parent phone call or email works wonders too!

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Those are my thoughts after another great year with my students.  What are some “take away” thoughts or advice that you learned this year, teachers?

Laura

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