Tips for Your First Day of Teaching
I’m participating in a $100 Target gift card giveaway. See the links at the bottom of this post to enter.
School starts soon, and if you’re a newer teacher you may be nervous
about your first day-especially in middle school. Learn six tips to ensure your first day of school will be a success by setting a positive tone for the year. These were written with middle school in mind, but the ideas transfer to most grade levels.
By far, the number one tip is…
1. Avoid focusing on rules.
There’s nothing more off-putting to a middle school student (and to most of us) than hearing rules. It’s fine if you mention a single rule in context, but imagine being in 5 or 6 classrooms that first day and hearing rule after rule after rule. Talk about BORING and UNINSPIRING! It’s not worth subjecting your students to that torture.
2. Save the syllabus for another day.
Frankly, at this age a syllabus is really for parents, so save it for Back-to-School Night or hand it out to students on day two or three. Instead, mention your top three most engaging activities this trimester or year. Give a bit of detail or show pictures or video clips from last year or from another teacher who does something similar. When you focus on those highly engaging lessons or units you’ll be doing this year, it creates interest and motivation.
3. Actually teach something.
Let students leave your classroom that first day having learned something new. Give them a sample of what’s to come. Don’t make it too easy, but don’t make it something they may have focused on last year. And if you can make it somewhat interactive, even better. However, you may want to avoid a full hands-on lesson because you haven’t had time to lay down the rules for cooperation, equipment use, etc, and you aren’t familiar with student academic levels. If you’re unsure about your content, a Back to School activity may be what you need. You don’t want students leaving your classroom thinking that they aren’t capable of doing the work or feeling unsupported.
4. Rethink having your class create your classroom rules.
These are middle school students, and they’re pretty familiar with standard behavioral expectations. If you find that some students need to be reminded of what works in the classroom, use personal contact and try to keep it light. (This is, or course, my opinion. I have never found it necessary to have my classes create the rules of the room. You may have had a different experience.)
5. Humor is your friend, so use it to your advantage.
You may want to come up with a few funny lines to address possible issues like talking when you’re teaching, entering and exiting the room procedures, treating one another with respect, etc. Consider these issues ahead of time. There are a lot of websites out there with teacher jokes. Here’s a link to one. A good one-liner can go a long way, so keep those jokes that redirect behavior in your back pocket.
6. Make a few positive phone calls to families.
Investing 30 minutes of your time after school that first day will pay off. I spend 30 minutes each day of the first week calling every parent (but I also don’t teach a single subject. If you do, divide up the kiddos among the teachers so that each family receives a call.) I have two groups rotate through my room, so my phone call load hovers around 60. If you can’t fit this in, then focus on calling the families of students who stand out as possible concerns.
Here’s a sample of what I may say during that first positive phone call home:
“Hi. My name is _________ ________, and I’m Maria’s teacher at Elmore Middle School. I’d like to welcome you to (name of school or grade level or subject area). Maria had a great day in class today. In fact, Maria even contributed to conversation on archaeology. (The point here is to offer some positive way the student acted or behaved.) We’ll soon dive into the nitty gritty of Early Humans (specific topic), and we’ll be participating in a cave simulation (something highly interesting mentioned here). We welcome family participation here at our school, so if you’re interested and able, there are a variety of ways to contribute. Our Back-to-School Parent Night is next week on (date). It begins at (time) in our gym (location). My email address is _________. Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. Your student is coming home with a planner today where she’ll be writing down her work each week. You can find the email addresses of all her teachers as well as important dates, school policies, and more. You can also find the same information on our website.”
Keep it short and to the point, but create a positive interaction right off the bat.
Being proactive is the best plan for the first day/week of school. You’ll feel more relaxed, students will be more engaged, and you’ll set the positive tone you want to have in your classroom.
Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)