Nancy Flanagan, a veteran of 30 first days of school, offers practical advice for teachers on starting the school year.
Think big, she writes.
For now, plan grandly, not precisely. Think about the things students need to know for the next decade, not the next standardized test or unit quiz. Not even the end-of-course or college admissions exams. Focus on things they need to master and understand before adulthood. Very soon, you will be dealing with the ordinary grind: daily lesson plans–plus assemblies, field trips, plays, the school newspaper, the spelling bee, the science fair, yada yada. But those are the trees. Think about the forest. What do you want your students to take away, forever, from your teaching? Which big ideas? What critical skills? It’s easy to forget the grand picture, once the year gets rolling. Take the time to do it now. Dream.
She also suggests saying hello to all colleagues, from the principal to the custodian, and trying to make newbies feel welcome.
There is nothing more effective than a school building where adults get along, respect each other and have the same goals. I am always amazed when teachers bitterly complain about the kids bickering in their classrooms, then proceed to ignore or castigate their fellow staff members. Build a few relationships.
Instead of setting classroom rules or putting kids through “empty ice-breakers or team-building exercises,” teachers should “teach something, using your most engaging instructional techniques,” writes Flanagan.
Don’t forget it’s the first day for students and their parents, she concludes. “One idea for immediate parent engagement that I used for many years (thanks to Middleweb): asking parents to tell you about their child, in a million words or less. Very simple, and very powerful.”