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Monday, August 5, 2013

A New School Year is A New Beginning

      As you get ready to start a new school year, it is time to evaluate how things went in your classroom last year and come up with the solutions to fix those problems you experienced.  I always told my teachers that “The First Three Weeks” of school were the most important three weeks of the school year and that a teacher could make or break themselves by the end of that first three weeks.  I told my teachers this to try and help them understand how important it is to be tough in those first few weeks of school.  The next thing I told them was that “Starting Over” is acceptable and necessary to maintain a well managed classroom.  Every new marking period needs to be kicked off with a day in which rules and procedures are evaluated, changed, and reviewed with your students.  Sometimes problems are instructional while at other times they are organizational; but do not forget, they are always linked together.  A lesson is only as good as the procedures used to implement it.  We all make mistakes and we can continue to make them or we can do something about them.  I have always preferred change to failure and hope that you do to. 

At the start of school and at the start of each marking period the teacher must: 

  • Teach/reteach and model academic expectations.
  • Teach/reteach and model classroom procedures.
  • Teach/reteach classroom rules and model consistency in enforcing consequences.
  • Set the tone for the rest of the school year.
Where do you start… 

1.      Have a plan for Success.  For example, here are my “five steps to an A or B”: 

·    Come to school everyday. (Good Attendance)
·    Listen to your teacher and classmates while in class. (Don’t talk in class about non- subject related items)
·    Participate in all classroom activities. (Stay on Task)
·    Do your homework. (Come to class prepared to do work)
·    Study for quizzes and tests. (Review means extra SOL/Benchmark preparation) 

2.      Have each student write down on an index card what grade they want to receive for the marking period.  

3.      Explain the plan on the first day of school and at the start of each marking period. The plan should change each nine weeks as you evaluate what your students need to be successful. 

4.      Spend some time explaining to your students how they can use the plan for success to achieve the grade they have written on their index card.  Be sure and keep these cards as they will be useful to show students and parents when students are not working hard toward their goal.
Where do you go from here… 

·         Evaluate the old, create some new and teach/reteach the rules and procedures.  Before you create the rules and procedures list all the behaviors you would like to see exhibited by your students in different types of situations.  Remember behaviors are actions you can see or hear; your acceptance level of these behaviors may change as the years goes on and you attain experience.  What is acceptable on the first day of school should not be acceptable to you at the start of the second semester. The key to success here is to have lots of procedures and very few rules.  It is time to evaluate your classroom ---- when do you lose instructional time …… what makes this happen in your classroom? 

For example, if you collect papers one by one the students will get noisy, if you have them passed to the front and then down the front row you can collect them in about one minute which is not enough time for students to get out of control. 

Other problem areas are generally going to the bathroom, sharpening pencils, personal conversations, sleeping in class, and getting in and out of groups.  

One of the biggest mistakes that teachers make is not adequately teaching what each rule means and the practicing procedures needed to carry out activities that impact the daily routine.  
·         Organize yourself and develop well-planned lessons.  It is time to decide which strategies are working and which ones are not.  If you do a lot of worksheets and students talk while they do them then you must come up with alternatives to deliver material to your students.  You cannot use the same strategies day in and day out and expect success.  For example if you teach a 90 minute block you need to have planned at least 120 minutes of instruction utilizing different teaching strategies for that 90 minute block.  You need to vary the time line each day and have lessons that last from 5 minutes to 30 minutes.  Some days you may have three 30 minute lessons utilizing three different strategies, other days you might have one 30 minutes lesson, two 15 minute lessons, two 5 minute lessons, and one 20 minutes lesson utilizing multiple strategies.  Of course do not forget about over planning (120 minutes) and the back up lessons you will need if one of the planned lessons does not work and needs to be terminated.  It can be deadly to continue with a lesson that is not working in your classroom.  Scrap what does not work and move on.  Also, if all your lessons work then you have a head start for next weeks planning. 

·         Be fair and consistent with all students.  This is one of the hardest things a teacher must do.  If a rule is good for one student on one day then it must be good for all students on all days. You cannot bring your personal problems to your classroom and you cannot let your emotions influence your decisions.
·         Believe that all students can learn.  I have worked most of my career with at-risk students and I know beyond a shadow of doubt that all students can learn but not always in the same way.  You have to look at your students and search for ways to help them become successful.  It is a ongoing trial and error process.  Good teachers know this and master how to do it.
For more Classroom Management Tips go to the Classroom Management Tips Page


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