Come the first day of school, you’ll be ready.
Your room, your schedule, your activities and lessons. Your outfit.
All primed, polished, and poised to succeed.
You’ll even know exactly what you’re going to say when you greet your new class.
Which is all well and good.
But there is something about the first day of school that causes many teachers to behave in ways that undermine their best laid plans.
Maybe it’s nerves. Maybe it’s trying to do too much.
Maybe it’s being so focused on checking off every box that they lose self-awareness.
Whatever the cause, if you can avoid the following three mistakes, you can begin laying the groundwork for the best year of teaching you’ve ever had.
1. You talk too much.
It’s normal to want to cover as much information as you can on the first day of school, but it’s best to temper your ambition.
Otherwise, you risk losing your students.
Talk too much and they’ll tune you out. They’ll form a negative impression of you and being in your class, which is the seed from which misbehavior grows.
It’s best to break your policies and procedures into digestible chunks and involve your students like you would any other lesson.
Get them up and moving. Have them prove they understand by actually doing it, modeling it, or acting it out—while you look on quietly.
Give them a taste of what it’s like learning from you, which will set the tone for the rest of the year.
2. You’re too serious.
Although behavior expectations can be a weighty topic, and a teaching must on the first day of school, this doesn’t mean you have to be an ogre while you’re at it.
Too many teachers turn foreboding as soon as they bring up misbehavior.
Despite what they may say among colleagues in the privacy of the teachers’ lounge, somewhere in the back of their mind they still think intimidation is helpful.
But using fear, no matter how subtle the undercurrent, to coerce good behavior will only make your job more difficult—because it will very effectively sabotage your relationship with your new class.
It will weaken your leverage and ability to curb misbehavior.
Remember, your classroom management plan protects them and their right to learn and enjoy school. It’s good news, and thus it should be presented as such.
3. You’re too timid.
Teachers who try too hard to make a good first impression are at risk of falling into timidity.
They fear disappointing their new class so much that they tiptoe around their classroom management plan. They minimize its importance.
They give it only cursory attention, leaving students to believe they don’t have the stomach to really follow it.
But, again, protecting learning and enjoyment is a wonderful thing. Along with their physical safety, it’s also your most important job.
Furthermore, far from making your relationship with students more challenging, your classroom management plan is the very thing that allows it to flourish.
It’s the foundation upon which trust is built.
So teach it boldly. Be clear and confident. Show your students through your words, your passion, and your very presence that you will indeed fulfill your every promise.
Awareness Is Key
Accomplishing everything you set out to do on the first day of school is no guarantee it will go well.
Yes, it’s important to check off your boxes.
But if you unwittingly bore your students, intimidate them, or downplay the critical role of fixed, non-negotiable boundaries, then you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.
You’ll begin the year with a severed connection, a disconnect between what you’re trying to communicate and the message your students are receiving.
The mistakes above are particularly insidious because they’re difficult to see in oneself. You look back a week later and think, “I was so prepared, and I did everything I wanted to do, yet why am I struggling?”
The good news is that simple awareness of which one or more of the three mistakes you’re most susceptible to is the best way to avoid making them.
Be cognizant of the amount of speaking you’re doing. Present all behavior expectations as good news. Deliver your classroom management plan with boldness.
And the first day of school will go as planned.
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