By Cherie Werner
Can it be possible that school starts again in just a few short weeks? The summer has flown by and soon your quiet classroom will be alive with the joyful sounds of a new group of children. One of the delightful aspects of a new school year is that it provides a chance to start fresh and to begin again. Keep reading to learn some ways to get the new year started in the right direction!
Before School Begins:
Pray. There is a hymn that begins “With the Lord Begin Thy Task.” The best way to start every day and any endeavor is to pray. Jesus is with you all the time, waiting and willing to help. “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4 ESV)
Make contact before the first day. Whether you send a summer letter, make phone calls, have an open house, or do home visits, let your students and their families know that you are excited for the new year, you are thinking about them, and you care about them.
Ask parents to tell you about their child. No one knows your students better than their parents. Send home a short list of questions asking parents to tell you about their child. Include questions like these:
- What do you want me to know about your child?
- What motivates your child?
- What distresses your child?
- What are your concerns about this year?
Read through those responses before school starts, and if you have a chance, discuss them with the parents. Read through them again when the first quarter ends. If a parent shared a worry or concern, check back to see how it is going or what you can do to help.
Ask your students to tell you about themselves. Also ask your students to answer some questions. (Parents can record answers for little ones.) Possible questions could include the following:
- What makes you feel excited about school?
- What makes you feel nervous or scared about school?
- What is something you would like to know about school this year?
- What is something you would like me to know about you?
Once again, if a student shared a worry or concern with you, check back after a few weeks to see how he or she is feeling.
Get organized. It’s never fun to start the year with a messy or disorganized classroom. Take time during the last week of summer to clean out the old—go through drawers and cupboards, clean out files, sort and reorganize manipulatives. Throw away or repurpose anything that you aren’t using. Make a list of anything and everything that can be done ahead of time, and try to do as many things as possible so you can save time during the school year.
After School Begins:
Connect with your students. Get to know them. Ask questions. Listen. Watch and observe. Have fun with them. School is a lot of work, but don’t let the work get in the way of the relationships. Your students need to know you care about them and are interested in their lives.
Pray with and for your students. As you get to know them, help foster their knowledge and relationship with Jesus. Demonstrate how to go to God in any and every situation. Stop and pray with them whenever something is distressing, difficult, or wonderful. Scatter prayer throughout your day.
Remember what brought you down last year. It is easy to have a strong start at the beginning of the year. You are rested, relaxed, and have had ample time to prepare. But sometimes a positive start begins to fall flat after a few months. Think about last year (or past years). What brought you down? Why did it happen? What changes make the middle of the year more difficult than the beginning? Think about it and take action to head it off before it begins.
Make brag calls or emails. Parents often cringe when a teacher calls because they fear their child is in trouble or something bad happened. As often as possible, try to call with good things to say. Even better, let your students hear or read your praise as you share it with parents.
Teach. Model. Practice. Repeat. You have a picture in your mind of how you want things done in your classroom. In order to have things run smoothly, you need to get your students to understand your plan. How do you do that? You teach them. You go through each step of what you want to happen and you tell them how you want them to do it. After you teach, you show them. Then you have them practice.
Think about your day and what goes on. How do you want your children to line up, turn in papers, get a drink, ask to use the restroom, and on and on? Figure out what you want them to do and how you want them to do it. Then teach each procedure step by step. Be sure to model both acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Give them plenty of opportunities to practice.
Share with us! What do you do to start the school year on a positive note?
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