The beginning of the school year is full of new possibilities. New teachers are learning their craft and putting theory into practice for the first time. Experienced teachers are refining their craft and becoming a better teacher day by day. There are plenty of ways people start anew each August and the more times I go through this the more I reflect on what makes any new school better than another. Here are a few of my musings.
- Try something new every school year. The quickest way to become a boring, soulless educator is to stop innovating and become stagnant. Make it a point at the beginning of every school year to try something in a new way or try a new strategy you’ve been meaning to try. For me this shows my students in a small way that I’m willing to take the risks that I’m asking them to take in class. It also reminds me in a small way that I’m not a finished product and need to keep reinventing things and seeing growth in new ways. This year I’m trying to relate to my students better from the start. I’m diving into their lives and working with them in ways I never have before. I’m also sponsoring a student group to get to know students in a different set circumstances.
- Be flexible. This is not in my natural skill set. I want to be someone who goes with the flow and isn’t rattled by anyone, but that’s just not me. I like a little bit of control in the classroom and when I don’t feel like the kids are responding to me in certain ways I get easily frustrated. At the beginning of the school year especially I have to remind myself that things happen and I need to just go with it. Students are figuring me out and I’m figuring them out and that takes time. I usually have to harken back to my days coaching c-team football and laugh a lot more than I get angry.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s my belief that 99% of the problems in a school could be solved or de-escalated by better communication. I like to try and have as many face-to-face conversations as I can at the beginning of the school year because it forces me to learn about everyone in the building. If I can’t meet face to face I’ll try and call them on the phone. It’s not ideal, but at least you can understand the tone of the person you’re talking to. Lastly I’ll e-mail someone if I can’t reach them any other way. It’s the least personal and most frustrating.
These ideas are nothing new, they just help me reframe my mentality to that I can make the most of the beginning of the school year. Ideally I’m using these all year, but I really like to emphasize them the first few weeks of school.