one of the required reading books in college for me was Harry Wong’s “the first days of school”. it’s geared more toward elementary teachers so i didn’t find it super helpful as a high school teacher. but there was one section that really spoke to me. Wong wrote about starting the year off on the right foot because it sets the scene for the rest of the year. the first few weeks are crucial and determine the future of your classroom.
- students will want to know what the rules and procedures are from the beginning. they’ll need reminders for awhile of what to do. be patient. they’ll mess up. if it’s a procedure, give them a reminder. if it’s a rule, give them a consequence. consistency works wonders to create a safe and predictable classroom.
- they’ll also want to know who you are. start the first day with telling them about yourself. don’t give out too many personal details though. just the basics. laugh with them, but also be consistent with your rules and procedures.
- explain your grading policy and what you’re looking for so they will know what to expect. write them lots of notes to give them clues on what they need to improve and what they’re doing well. also, use rubrics when necessary. because they’re so specific, rubrics can be really helpful to students.
- prepare for the first week as if everything could go wrong. get all your copies made. write awesome lesson plans.
- get your head on straight. the transition from summer to fall is hard. you go from no schedule to a hectic one. use the last few weeks of summer to start getting up earlier, preparing for your classes, and building a great, positive attitude.
as time passes, gradually take off the training wheels. younger kids may need a different timetable. my seniors get a shorter period of time to learn the ropes than my freshmen.
it took me awhile to accept that i needed to be strict and firm with my rules and procedures in the beginning. i made lots of mistakes. and in the first two years, it hurt the rest of the year for me and the kids. it’s difficult to backtrack when you’ve already allowed things to get away from you. so learn from me and write good rules/procedures and stick to them.