Why You Should Take Your Time The First Few Weeks Of School

No matter what you hear from your colleagues, no matter how far they say they’ve gotten into the curriculum, or how they’re already working in groups or rotating students through centers, avoid the temptation to join them.

Avoid rushing to catch up. Avoid pushing your students along too fast. Avoid comparing yourself or judging yourself or stressing out over what anyone else is doing.

Because in just a few short weeks, when your fellow teachers are complaining about the pressure and the stress, about the misbehavior and how far they’ve fallen behind, you’ll be singing a different tune.

It pays, you see, to get it right the first time around. It pays to take a deliberate approach, to teach the details, the ins and outs, and the A to Zs of being a polite, successful, and contributing member of your classroom.

In the beginning your students’ eagerness to do well can mask the reality that they’re unprepared to hit the ground running, unprepared to fully transition to their new grade level, and unprepared for your Everest-like expectations.

This is why, even if you teach, model, and rehearse your routines thoroughly, they can surprise you with how poorly they put them into practice.

For example, let’s say you’re walking your students to lunch. You leave your room in a calm, brisk moving line. As you approach sight of the lunchroom, your students are rolling along—precisely as modeled. You couldn’t be happier with how well they’re performing the routine.

But then, unexpectedly, other classes join you in the hallway. The line backs up. All heck breaks loose.

You watch aghast as your students begin stepping out of line to goof and jostle with their friends, shout out to little brothers or big sisters, and disrupt the working classrooms lining the hallway. If you’re to be honest, their behavior is, in a word, embarrassing.

It’s easy in such situations to get discouraged, to overreact, and to question both your classroom management ability and the potential of your new class.

But you would be wrong on both counts.

Because early in the school year an occasional breakdown in behavior is expected. No teacher escapes the first few weeks without being tested or tried or disappointed. How you handle it is what separates exceptional teachers from the rest.

So when something like this happens, when you have a bad moment while on your way to lunch or the wheels fall off during read aloud or every last one of your students runs on the way out to recess, it isn’t the end of the world.

It doesn’t mean you have a bad class. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good teacher. And it doesn’t mean that you should forgo your expectations of excellence or lower the bar on what you know is best for them and their future.

Rather, when your students take a misstep—or flat out ignore your directives—it’s an opportunity to show them that you really do mean what you say. It’s an opportunity to prove to them that you’re a leader worth following. It’s an opportunity to back up, slow down, take a deep breath, and get it right.

Once you convince your class that when you say it they can take it to the bank, everything becomes much, much easier.

So slow down. Take your time. Show them what a good student looks like. Show them how you expect them to listen to instruction, dismiss to recess, turn in work, partner talk, meet in groups, ask a question, line up for lunch, and even how to have fun.

And if you have a bad moment, if your students fail to meet your standards, keep your cool, observe closely, and wait until you can be alone with your class before addressing what you saw and how it strayed from your teaching.

Hold them to it and they’ll learn. Take them back to the scene of the crime and give them a chance to fix it and they will. Accept nothing less than their best . . .

And they’ll give it to you.

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9 Responses to Why You Should Take Your Time The First Few Weeks Of School

  1. Toisha August 31, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Thanks!! I really needed to read this. I’m going to take my time and help my students become successful learners. 🙂

    • Michael Linsin August 31, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      Excellent! Way to go, Toisha!


  2. Sarah September 3, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Great advice! It’s the 2nd week of school & I’ve spent most of my time teaching my students how to execute routines properly. I’ve had one of my classes re-do fire drill procedures (5 times in a row) until they got it right. Perhaps I’m more behind on curriculum, but isn’t it just as important to teach the kids excellence (the right way of doing things)?

    • Michael Linsin September 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      Absolutely Sarah. In fact, your focus on performing routines with excellence will translate to faster progress through the curriculum. In time you’ll catch up and then fly ahead of where you need to be. Way to go!


  3. Haley July 25, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    Your articles are amazing. Thank you for the wonderful resource that is your website!

    I have a question about this one. In the scenario you describe above, with the students who are misbehaving once other classes join the lunch line, how would you recommend reacting? Say nothing and discuss it after lunch and then again the next day before lunch? Would you somehow practice the procedure at another time?

    • Michael Linsin July 26, 2015 at 10:10 am #

      Hi Haley,

      I’m so glad you like the articles. Yes, you would return to the lunch area later in the day and practice what you expect.


  4. Susan June 28, 2016 at 1:00 am #

    My students have a hard time walking anywhere in a quite straight line. Do you have them repeat this activity until they get it right? My question comes from, this is what I do. However, it has been stated to me that this act is capital punishment. So what do you do. Before, I have them walk again, I have them explain why they are walking what is expected of them. Is there another way to get this corrected?

    • Michael Linsin June 28, 2016 at 8:05 am #

      Hi Susan,

      I think you mean corporal punishment, which is physical punishment like flogging or spanking. When you get a chance, please read thoroughly through the Procedures & Routines category of the archive. You’re likely in need of shoring up the teaching and modeling part of the process.


  5. Nisha July 16, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    Hi I have been an avid reader of your articles found them guiding too but with changing times, I am finding children reluctant to practice but ready to misbehave and parents demand easy results building a pressure on teachers . Talking to them doesn’t motivate them enough what else do u think should be done ?its a typical private school scenario where pressure s always on teachers