The first day of school! Students are ready, and despite their own denials, eager to learn. Most of them will approach the new year with a desire to do better. How do we keep this eagerness alive? Teachers must create a safe, positive classroom environment where an expectation of achievement exists. Use the following tips to help begin your year positively.
- Be at your door from day one. Students need to find you ready to greet them and excited about the new year.
- Smile! If you are not happy to be in class, how can you expect your students to be happy?
- Do not complain to the students about how many of them are crammed into your classroom. Be welcoming to all, even if ten of them have to sit on the floor for the time being. Everything will be worked out eventually, and any student who is made to feel responsible for the administration's poor planning may feel unwanted for the rest of the year.
- Have work ready for the first day. Have a warm up and agenda on the board. Students will quickly learn your expectations while getting the message that learning will take place everyday in class.
- Learn students' names as quickly as possible. One technique is to pick out just a few and know them for the second day. Students will be surprised at how 'with it' you are.
- Make your classroom a safe place for all students. How do you do this? Create a prejudice-free zone. I use 'The Box' in my classroom. I tell every student that they each have an invisible box right outside my door. As they walk into class, they are to leave any stereotypes and prejudices they hold in their box. I humorously say that they will be able to pick these nasty thoughts and feelings up again when they leave the class for the day. However, while they are in my classroom, everyone will feel safe and accepted. To reinforce this idea, anytime a student uses a derogatory slang term or makes a bigoted remark, I tell them to leave it in 'the box'. What is amazing is that this has really worked in my classes. Other students quickly become involved, and if they hear their classmates making inappropriate comments, they tell them to leave it in 'the box'. One student even went so far as to bring in an actual shoebox for another student who could not control his stereotypical speech. Even though it was meant as a joke, the message was not lost. This example brings out one of the major benefits of this system: students become much more aware of what they are saying and how it affects other people.
The importance of setting a positive tone at the beginning of a new school year cannot be stressed enough. Despite their grumblings, students truly want to learn. How many times have you heard students speak disparagingly about classes where they sit around and do nothing all period long? Make your classroom a place of learning where your upbeat, positive nature is reflec