3 Promises For The First Day Of School

Smart Classroom Management: 3 Promises For The First Day Of SchoolOf the many items on your first-day-of-school checklist, three promises should go at the very top.

Because, together, they have the power to set a tone of kindness and good behavior that lasts for the entire school year.

They also make you instantly likeable and establish you as a leader worth following.

They ensure your consistency and integrity.

They set you apart from every teacher your students have ever had.

It’s remarkable stuff. But it’s real, and it works for every teacher committed to doing what they say they will.

The promises should be delivered with boldness and sincerity and within the first 20 minutes of meeting your new class.

They are as follows:

1. “I promise to treat you with respect.”

After a lengthy pause, define what this looks like in practical terms.

Depending on your grade level, it may include how you’ll never raise your voice in anger or how you’ll never threaten, scold, or manipulate or how you’ll never use sarcasm or cut down to size.

Explain that no matter how many times they mess up or make mistakes, you’ll always be happy to see them, share a joke with them, and help them become the best students they can be.

2. “I promise to listen to you and take care of any problems you’re having here at school.”

You’ll then describe how if they’re being bullied, teased, or made fun of, or subject to any force keeping them from enjoying school, you’ll step in and fix it.

You’ll do everything in your power to ensure that they have the same opportunity as every other student to work together, make friends, and develop a love of school.

3. “I promise to follow our classroom management plan exactly as it’s written.”

This is the ultimate promise that protects their right to learn and enjoy school. Thus, you must frame everything you say about why you’re so faithful to it in these terms.

You see, it’s about them. It’s about how your classroom management plan benefits them, the class as a whole, and the universal desire to be part of something special and bigger than themselves.

It frees them, and you, to bask in a learning environment they can’t wait to get to every day.

A Statement Of Belief

By making and then keeping the promises above, you effectively eliminate the three primary causes of student angst, unhappiness, and misbehavior.

You gain trust and put your new students at ease.

You draw them eagerly into your corner and cause them to be both relieved and thrilled to be in your class.

You also put yourself on record—and your reputation on the line—which exerts just enough pressure to ensure your consistent follow through.

It will fill you with a deep sense of responsibility and a mama bear’s desire to protect, defend, and care for your students like never before.

The promises are a statement of belief—in yourself, in them, and in the transformational power of great teaching.

And it happens within 20 minutes of the first day of school.

PS – The audio version of The Happy Teacher Habits is now available at Amazon.com and iTunes.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.

, ,

21 Responses to 3 Promises For The First Day Of School

  1. Kim Johnson July 15, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    I really love your articles and books! I reread them sometimes to give myself a boost and reminder. Do you have any articles or books geared to middle school teachers, specifically? I can adapt most of the things you write about, but some things wouldn’t work with middle school due to class changes all day and the ages of the students. I teach 8th graders.

    • Michael Linsin July 15, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

      Hi Kim,

      The SCM strategies are applicable for middle school teachers as well. There are some tweaks that are mostly obvious at the bottom and top range of k-12.


  2. Jeanna July 15, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    I love this post! I’ve read three of your books (The Classroom Management Secret, Dream Class, and The Happy Teacher Habits) and a mountain of posts from SCM. I’m so excited about turning over a new classroom management leaf this school year and fully committed to doing so, but I have to say that I’m terrified I’ll mess it up and fall back into old habits. The statement you made about putting yourself on record and your reputation on the line is exactly what I needed to hear. I’m writing the three promises into my first day lesson plan right now! Thank you so much for all of your classroom management advice!

    • Michael Linsin July 15, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

      I’m glad to hear it, Jeanna.


  3. Kelly July 15, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    I LOVE this idea, and I plan on using this in my classroom this year! The only thing I would tweak would be the wording in #2. If you promise kids that you will take care of their problems at school, how can they learn to solve those problems themselves? I agree that students should tell if they are being bullied, and that a teacher should intervene, but the language of the second promise infers (at least to me anyway) that we will take care of all their problems at school. I tweaked it to say that I would help them solve any problems they have. I teach middle school, and if I made that promise as originally written, I would have a whole bunch of 6th graders wanting me to solve all their problems for them.

    • Michael Linsin July 15, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

      Hi Kelly,

      All of the promises—as well as all rules, consequences, routines, procedures, and expectations—must be defined for your students (see #1). Otherwise, they can be construed in any number of unintended ways, including protection from hard work or academic challenge or a perceived slight from a classmate.


  4. Erica July 15, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    What if you break your promise? We are human and fallible after all.

  5. Kristen Waters July 15, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    These promises seem heartfelt and lovely but I’m also uncomfortable wth the nature of the wording. I wouldn’t want to lie to the kids by making any promises that I know I might not be able to keep. “Better not to vow than to break a vow”.
    So instead of guaranteeing, I’d add phrases that reflect my intentions to try my best. I also really like Kelly’s suggestion to tweak #2 by adding the phrase about helping the kids.

    • Dorothy K July 18, 2017 at 7:27 am #

      Kristen, I agree with your suggestions because it is important to be realistic about our humanity. After all, we are modeling behaviors for our students as well as having high standards. Thanks!

  6. Jennifer July 17, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    Reading your books now. What do you do if the child who refuses the time out doesn’t bring home the letter?

  7. Esther Van der Merwe July 19, 2017 at 12:54 am #

    Is there a perfect seating order for a classroom? I teach grade four’s and so far the best way to teach them, for me, is by having the tables and chairs in straight rows. In previous years I have tried to organize them in groups an it was way too noisy, even having certain learners placed in certain positions – away from their friends, etc.

    Your opinion please?

  8. Growing Garden Pre school July 19, 2017 at 5:22 am #

    Such a wonderful post.

  9. Suzy Garoutte July 19, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

    I noticed the last post referred to a 4th grade class. When I read the reviews, on Amazon, of your “Happy….habits” book,” a few people commented on how they had a little bit of trouble relating to your process since they taught elementary school. (I think the idea is that you teach high school, and that your books are focused more on high school classes? Is this right?)

    I teach K-5 music. I have read and really appreciate and use many of the ideas and suggestions you teach in “Classroom Management for Music, Art & PE.” In fact, our District PLC, comprised of the 8 elementary teachers of elementary music, read it together. We diiscussed it over a series of weekly meetings. It was a fantastic jumping board for some of the best discussions we have had!

    My question today is, do you think your other books are easily relevant to all ages of students, even elemtnary?

    Thank so much for your wonderful books and ideas. I am so happy to discover this page!

    • Michael Linsin July 20, 2017 at 7:04 am #

      Hi Suzy,

      Yes, I spent 24 years teaching elementary school.


  10. Mike July 22, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    Michael, I’m really impressed by your common sense approach — I’ve enjoyed all your books and looking at this website.

    I’m wondering if you ever recommend an alternative consequence than a note home? I’m afraid of having a couple kids frequently receiving notes to take home.

    Related to that, I’m going to have a student next year who has challenged teachers tremendously in the past. I am looking forward to having this child and doing what I can to make a positive impact on the child’s life. Anyway, the child has a modification plan. I know you suggest keeping all children on the same classroom management plan, but I’m not sure whether it will work for this individual — I don’t want notes going home every day because the child gets to the last consequence.

    Thanks again for the great blog and books!

    • Michael Linsin July 23, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Mike,

      A call or email to parents is a solid alternative. Remember, consequences are a small part of classroom management. It’s all the other stuff, primarily what this site is about, that make them effective. As for your second question, my answer is too expansive for the time and space I have here. I would also have questions for you. You may want to spend more time in the Difficult Student category of the archive or, if you really want to dive into it, consider personal coaching.


  11. Andrea July 26, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

    Thanks for all the wonderful encouragement and much-needed prodding to follow the plan!
    Have you written anything about elementary school hallway behavior? I find that things start to fall apart when we are in transit, and I would like to hear from you and others about what you expect and how you manage the hallways.
    Thanks! Andrea

    • Michael Linsin July 27, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

      Hi Andrea,

      Yes, in several places (and books) but we’ll be sure to cover it again in the future.



  1. Learning Technology – Cynthia's Website - July 22, 2017

    […] I also want to continue to read deeper in Smart Classroom Management […]

  2. Links 7-26-17 | Mr. Bright's Blog - July 26, 2017

    […] 3 Promises For the First Day of School– Good things to try and live up to for our students […]

  3. The Magic of Three: 3 Resources for Excellent Classroom Management | West Virginia Council of Teachers of English - August 8, 2017

    […] July 15th blog post 3 Promises for the First Day of School really sums up the SCM philosophy very well.  Teachers make a promise to respect students, listen […]