The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

It’s Back to School Time!

on August 26, 2016

Around here school starts for k-12 students on Thursday, September 1st. I’ve been thinking about how I would start the first week of school if I were a teacher today. It’s somewhat different from what I did so many years ago when I was an elementary level teacher because times have changed, and I’ve learned some things along the way. Remember, readers that these are just my thoughts  based on what I remember of my own teaching and my work as a principal, and they may very well not be appropriate for your school or your personal philosophy of teaching. I would like to hear what some teachers practicing today think of my plans.

Like all teachers I see the first week of school not only as a time for teachers and students to get acquainted, but also a time to set the patterns of operation for the whole year. Because there is so much to be communicated to students the first day, I will list the actions I see as most important and describe them briefly, rather than get into full descriptions or explanations of why I chose them. Here’s my plan.

Greetings: I will  meet and greet students at the classroom door and hand each a sheet of paper with a one page essay about myself that is appropriate for the age of my students: my name and contact information, a brief -–and not too personal—autobiography, and a description of how I will teach and manage the classroom. On the screen in front of the classroom I have posted a message about where students should sit for now, do with their back packs, lunches and anything else they’ve brought with them. I will not assign any permanent seats in the first weekof school, but wait until the students and I have decided where is a good place for them to listen and learn.

Introductions: Once everyone is seated and quiet, I will tell the class that the first week of school is the time for us to get acquainted, not only as class members, but also as unique individuals with different abilities and interests. I will ask older students to read my autobiography silently or read it aloud to younger children. Afterward,  I will ask for questions and answer those that are not too personal. Next, older students will write their own biographies, using mine as a guide, while younger ones will be asked to tell some things about themselves to the class. Since it will take me a while to remember students’ names, I’ll pass out blank name cards for older students and filled out ones for the young kids. Students need to place the cards where I can read them easily over the coming week.

Getting Down to Business: The next step is explaining basic classroom rules, and practicing those that require movement or immediately stopping to listen. I’ll try to keep those rules few and simple, and tell students that we can change any of them later on if they don’t work well or are unnecessary. After that, I’ll ask students if they want to suggest any other rules. We will hold a class discussion and accept those that the majority thinks are needed. Finally, we’ll practice those rules that involve everyone at once, such as walking in line or stopping work and conversation when I ask for attention.

Necessary Actions: If there are books or other materials that we will need right away, I’ll pass them out now and explain how they will be used. I will also acquaint students with any special places in the classroom, such as the computer area, and explain when and how to use them.

Taking a Break: It feels like time for a recess, lunch or a classroom game to me.

Begin Classwork: I plan to leave time enough on that first day for a short, simple, lesson that includes a bit of homework. My purpose is to give students an idea of how teaching and learning will operate in this classroom.

Communicating with Parents: At the end of the first day I will hand out an information sheet for students to give to their parents. It will include a very brief description of my teaching/learning philosophy, what I expect of student attendance and behavior, how and when I can be reached if there is a parent concern, and a calendar for the school year.

Ending the Day: Since I believe that students, even the youngest ones, need a sense of closure, we’ll all work on cleaning up and getting the things going home collected. Then we will sing a song or recite a verse that fits with the end of a happy day. Students will leave the room while I say good-bye at the classroom door. For me the rest of the  school day is determined by the school district and/or my principal.


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