School starts officially on September 3, when the students and staff return after a well deserved break and begin the learning process all over again. It is a time when fresh starts, new beginnings, and great opportunities lie as possibilities for some great learning for both the staff and the students. For me, I have spent most of my summer working through the timetable, organising my office and meeting with parents and students in anticipation for the new school year. Although I do not really believe in the blank slate concept, this is a time for a new, clean page to add to the chapters of learning and growth in the book of life long learning.
In almost every yearly start up, I begin to get dreams about what the new year holds: often nightmares of students or teachers not listening to me or being outright rude. These are only figments, though, as every year, the connections I have made with students has been strong: relationships do matter. As I look back to my process of preparing for the new school year, I thought I would share some thoughts that to help make a smooth transition (transitions can be difficult) from the summer relaxation to the vigors of learning. (Love the idea of Vigor to replace the term rigor….hoping one day, it will catch on).
- Create an atmosphere of respect and welcome in the your classroom:
- This can be done easily by planning out the classroom space as one optimal for learning, sharing and collaborating.
- Know your students and listen when they talk about their lives. I’ve always been amazed at what students have accomplished and always try to find out what their interests are.
- Wait for your students at the door and welcome each one into the classroom. I love this, because it gives me the chance to connect to each student in a personal way and sometimes gives me an insight into how they are feeling that day.
- Make sure you are prepared for the first class:
- The first class sets the tone of the school year. Being prepared shows that you care about the students and are not wasting their time with trivial or inconsequential activities.
- Getting to know your students in a fun, game like manner gives you valuable information about each student and can create the relationships needed to move students forward in your subject area.
- If you are new to a school, get to know the office staff!
- I’ve always believed that the office staff run the school, and now as I sit in administration, I know that’s true. If you have a good relationship with the office, you will always be supported and guided: they are the holders of the resources and although there are no favourites, a smile goes a long way.
- As a school, make sure that every child in the building has at least one champion.
- In one school I was at, there was a list in the staff room of all the students in the school (it could be in grade 9 or grade 8, or any grade that is ‘new’ to the school). The teachers and adults then all put a check mark next to a student they knew well and had a connection with. What this did was make it clear which students did not have that champion and the teachers and staff then made a concerted effort to connect with those students. It made an amazing difference in the outcomes of SEL in that school.
My goal this year is to create that environment and culture where students and staff are all connected, feel cared for, and that their ideas count!
Have a great start up!