I clearly remember my first day EVER teaching school. I was wearing my new dress (yes, teachers get first day of school clothes too), and the butterflies were alive and well in my stomach. My excitement may have been higher than the students. I had planned for months (honestly years, I had wanted to be a teacher my entire life), and happily greeted each student as they entered the room. I showed each one to their desk, with their perfectly placed name card and pencil box filled with supplies. My plan book was mapped out minute by minute–seriously. I had 15 minute intervals planned out with extra activities just in case I ran out of time during any given second. Oh, the worries of a first year teacher!
That first day went perfectly. It was mapped to the max, and the students had a great time. I specifically remember one student saying, “This was the best first day ever!” I couldn’t agree more. We played getting to know you games, learned procedures, made an art project, organized our desks, learned names, and basically just had a great time. I had read Harry K. Wong’s book, “The First Days of School,” and after completing mine, knew I nailed it.
Then reality set it. I opened my plan book to look at the next day and NOTHING was planned. Literally. I am not joking you. I was so worried about the first day, making it a wonderful experience for the students, parents, and myself, that I had not thought of anything else. I didn’t even know where to begin. I swear to you, I sat at my desk for 30 minutes wondering what to do. Slowly I began writing in my plan book. Again, I planned out the next day in 15 minute intervals. It was a review of procedures, a short math lesson, and a writing activity.
By day three I knew I needed a better plan. Activities and games all day weren’t going to cut it. After reviewing procedures, I began teaching math and introducing our routine for literacy. I was teaching a 6th grade class of 32 students in an elementary classroom. After graduating from college with my degree I was sure I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t, and it was quite a shock how much I still needed to learn. I kept learning all year long how to become a better teacher.
So, you’ve made it through your first week of school, now what?
#1. Keep practicing those procedures. I don’t know if I can reiterate this enough. Procedures are key to classroom management. Make sure you have them in place for EVERYTHING and that students know the procedures. Practice, practice, practice. Then, throughout the year, review and revamp those procedures as needed.
#2. If you haven’t already, get going on your math and literacy curriculum. Students have had a long, fun summer. School was most likely in the back of their minds. Get that routine back. The quicker you get a routine going, the faster your students will adjust to it.
#3. Keep that positive reinforcement coming! Students love it, they respond to it, and you’ll be happier for it!
#4. Continue connecting with your students every day. This is key! Student connection should not just happen on day one or even week one, but all year long!
#5. Don’t give up. There will be great days, hard days, and days you feel like you moved backward not forward. Remember why you entered the profession. Remember that you want to change lives. Remember that your students love you, and you want them to be successful!