Friday, August 12, 2016

5 Tips for a Smooth Back to School Re-entry

I'm in denial that school is starting (with students) in just 4 days! There's always so much to think about when planning, not to mention classroom setup! I'm linking up with Laura at A Grace-Filled Classroom and a ton of other terrific teacher bloggers to share tips and ideas to make your transition back to school smooth!
Here are 5 tips to start off your school year right!
Build relationship with students!
“When students know that we know them, they are more connected with school, they are more likely to persevere when challenges arise and enjoy school more!” Don Graves suggests completing a chart to get to know your students:
However, teachers should NOT become friends with students; there still needs to be a hierarchical nature to the relationship. In The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out, author Mike Anderson lists some ways to (appropriately) get to know our students: build in class time for chitchat. Each morning we start our day with Morning Meeting, a time to greet one another and share out on particular topics or questions. Definitely check out this post on Morning Meeting with upper grades! Eat in the cafeteria every so often and sit with students (their lunch time conversation is much different than classroom discussions!). Some other ideas: start an after-school club or an optional children’s book club that meets during lunch every few weeks. Post pictures of former classes: posting pictures of former students and classes also lends a sense of history to your classroom, showing student that they are important even after they leave! Avoid social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) with students & parents; keep the relationship professional.
Build Relationships with Families!
Be proactive: send a friendly letter home before the school year. My grade-level partner and I don’t know which students are in our classes beforehand, (and we're at a small school with only two of us at 4th grade) but we send a postcard in the summer (to those students who are registered by then) from both of us, letting students know we are excited to meet them. 

Create a class website to keep parents informed of class projects & dates, recommended websites, files, updates on class happenings, and post pictures. I created my class website on shutterfly.com. I’m definitely NOT a techie, but it’s so easy and it’s free. Many teachers also use weebly.com. Parents have appreciated access to information and it has drastically cut down their constant questions; I just refer them to the website. (I've also trained my students where to look for information!)
Parents are often used to getting phone calls or notes only when their child is misbehaving. Send notes home or call with good news. I try to be very specific when writing a note or postcard, such as “__________ had a great day! She found many ways to solve a problem in math.” Or “__________ was a kind friend; he helped another student during reading.” Often parents are speechless when I call to say something positive or parents have told me they put my postcard on the refrigerator because they’re so proud! However, again a note of caution: "nurturing supportive and professional relationships with parents will help us better connect with our schools and better meet the needs of our students. Having close personal friends who are parents of our students can lead to conflicts of interest." (Anderson, p. 43)

Parents want to feel confident that their child's teacher is competent, confident, and communicative. You can read more details about tried and true teaching tools to help with parent communication here.
Cultivate a feeling of community and safety in your classroom. You can read more about no-prep to low-prep community building activity here,  here, here, and here
Read the book Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud to your class. It's an awesome picture book about the power of positive words & "filling" each other up, rather than "emptying" others' buckets. We have small buckets (thanks, Oriental Trading!) numbered with student numbers hanging in my classroom; students use them to add positive affirmations and compliments to classmates. You should see their faces light up when they receive a note!
Have your behavior management plan in place before students arrive. I'm sure you've heard the advice, "don't smile the first day of school until students know you are serious." Pshaw! That's just silly! Be approachable and friendly, but firm and consistent. Your students are nervous enough without meeting a scary, stone-faced teacher. You can also read more about tried and true behavior plans here. Most of all: be yourself! To start developing empathy with your class, a GREAT book to read to your class the first day is First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.
It's all about the main character who is so nervous about the first day of school and at the end there's a twist because you discover the nervous character is  the teacher (not a student)! This book elicits terrific discussions!
Lastly, be sure to take care of YOURSELF!! Teacher care is SO important! We are so busy thinking about our students & their families, our own families, things we have to get done, blah, blah, blah, that we often forget about ourselves! Be sure to check out my Teacher Care Pinterest board; there are tons of ideas for how to stay sane during the school year! You may also be interested in an awesome book study series of posts on The Well-Balanced Teacher!
Here's to a fabulous new school year!

2 comments:

  1. Hey Kathie! Thanks for linking up and sharing such great ideas! I think having lunch in the cafeteria is great advice! There was a teacher at my school that did that every time they served tacos. The students would be so excited when it was that day because they knew their teacher would be eating with them. My favorite tip that you gave was to post pictures! Gosh...so easy, but so powerful. It shows your students that you care.
    Thanks again for linking up! I hope you have a great start to your school year.

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    1. Thanks for organizing the link-up, Laura! I definitely think pictures are the best way to connect families with the classroom, as well as providing something concrete for kids to talk about with their parents!

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