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This article was printed from Teachers.Net Gazette,
located at https://teachers.net.
How to Start
Welcome back to school.
Clueless may be the best way to explain the plight of many neophyte teachers.
It conjures up an image of a person sitting at life's crossroads with a suitcase
full of information, but no idea how to use it. Their bags are brimming with
a five- or six- or seven-step lesson plan, boxes of activities, the state performance
appraisal instrument, five interpretations of educational foundations, nine
theories of child development, conflicting advice from a plethora of educational
specialists, and a collection of buzzwords and current educational fads. But
they have no clue as to what to do in the first days and weeks of school.
I do not remember this teacher's name, but had it not been for her,
I never would have made it this far. Bless her! Something happened to me before
the first day of school when I began teaching 26 years ago in Los Angeles.
I was standing in the teacher's lounge when this experienced teacher
came to me and said, "You don't know how to start, eh?"
I said, "How can you tell?" If you can only start my class for me and
get them rolling I'll be able to carry on."
No one had taught me how to start the first day of school.
Portland, Oregon (from The First Days of School, page 15)
A First Day of School Action Plan
Imagine starting the first day of school with a specific action plan.
So often we hear from people who tell us that their college classes in education
offered nothing practical, concrete, or applicable. This was not the case with
Sarah Jones, who we talked about in our September, 2001, column https://teachers.net/wong/SEP01/
At Western Kentucky University, where Sarah Jones was a student, they
help their preservice teachers "get it all together" just before they go out
to teach. As part of her classroom management class Sarah Jones prepared a First
Day of School Action Plan. This one-inch thick binder proved to be a Godsend
as she began her teaching career.
This is what her Action Plan contained.
Table of Contents
Time Frame For Components of Plan
Lesson Plans & Activities
"Places To Go!"
"Cultures Camp Out"
First Day of School Activities
Books To Use During The First Days of School
Preparation of Classroom Before The First Day of School
Be Prepared Sheet
Cooperative Classroom Dry-Erase Board
Student Contract For Classroom Materials
"Our Class Fits Like A Puzzle" Bulletin Board
Classroom Door Decoration
"Brag About Me Board" Bulletin Board
All About Me" Bulletin Board
Collaboration With Students & Parents
Letter to Students
Open House Activities
Substitute Teacher Handbook
New Student Folder
Homework Tip List
"Any Beautiful Collectible" Wish List
Rules, Consequences, Rewards
First Day of School Schedule
General Daily Schedule
Maintaining A Learning Climate
Reasons for the Management Plan
Rules, Consequences, Rewards
First Morning Greeting & Seating Arrangement
"Duty Wheel"- Student Jobs
Intervention Plan Packet
Form Used to Create a Socio-Gram
Notes of Encouragement
"Special News About A Very Special Student" Certificate
"Super Job-Way To Go-Great Day" Letter Form
IX. Documentation & Evaluation
Documentation of Student Work
Contract For Learning Centers
Parent Calls & Conference
"Welcoming Phone Call" Planning Sheet
"Welcoming Phone Call (to parents of potential problem students)" Planning
"Positive Phone Call Form"
Parent Conferences Outline
Sarah Jones' First Day of School Action Plan has been shared with you so that
you can develop your own Action Plan. With such a plan she was so effective
that a parent shared:
I loved volunteering in Ms. Jones' classroom because this gave me an
opportunity to see how well organized she was and how well behaved were the
students. She had her policies, daily assignments, and classroom procedures
posted. Her conduct was extremely professional, from how she dressed, to how
she communicated with the parents. My daughter was truly blessed by having such
a wonderful teacher.
Maria Silva, parent of Laura Silva
The effective teacher plans, then plans some more, and finally over plans.
This is no different from a pilot who has a flight plan, a coach who has a game
plan, and a businessperson who has a business plan. The ineffective teacher
goes from day to day, wondering what to teach the next day, often looking for
busy work to keep the students quiet and docile.
On the first day of school, Sarah Jones states her expectations.
Academic Expectations (Sarah Jones)
I can promise that I will provide the best school year ever to every student.
My academic expectations of my class are simple and straight forward. I expect
every student to try their best and do their best work. I expect each of my
students to make great strides in their academic success during the school year.
Every student has the right and the potential to be successful.
On the first day of school, Christine Neilson, who teaches at Holy Name of
Jesus Middle School in Indialantic, Florida, communicates her expectations to
her students and parents in the following manner.
Academic Expectations (Christine M. Neilson)
One item that I found to so helpful during this current school year is that
when I sent out letters to parents this year advising them of our expectations
for their students, I sent two copies - one for the parent to keep and one to
send back signed, to me. I added a space for an email address and 149 out of
150 students have a parent with an email address! I keep all on file and email
parents rather than calling. The response time so much quicker and parents seem
to enjoy this type of correspondence.
Las Vegas Wants You To Have a Great Beginning
Clark County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located, is the fastest growing school
district in America. They hire some 1500 new teachers each year. Their website
if you might be interested in looking for a job opportunity here. The Clark
County Schools have an induction program.
Remember the difference between an induction program and mentoring.
As important as is a mentor, that's all a mentor is -- a buddy or support person.
An induction program is an organized, sustained, multiyear process with many
activities designed to help you succeed. One facet of the Clark County Induction
Program is how they begin with a Welcome Center. The center is staffed with
people who will help you find housing, arrange for telephone and utility service,
introduce you to important people who can answer your questions, and even have
socials for you to meet people from your home area or academic area.
There will be workshops, mentors, and monthly newsletters. Each new teacher
is given a big binder of materials, called Great Beginnings, to
help you succeed. Just think how much more likely it is that you will succeed
if you had An Action Plan from your university, coupled with an Induction
Program with materials and people supplied by a school district to help
Before you begin your first day of school, the people in the Clark County
Induction Program will teach you how to do the following:
Top Dozen To-Do Before School Starts
Plan seating assignments (i.e. random, numbered, alphabetical).
Determine essential procedures for a smooth-running classroom.
Gather lots of teambuilding activities to be used early during the year.
Post your discipline plan, including rules and consequences.
Identify a location in your classroom to post your daily agenda.
Create a daily routine for the first five minutes of class.
Anticipate and prepare all supplies needed (dry erase markers, corridor
passes, stapler, etc.).
Organize and prepare your classroom so it is ready for learning.
Think of ways to learn your student's names quickly (i.e. mnemonics, pictures,
Introduce yourself to the teachers next door and across the hail.
Commit to connecting with each student on a daily basis (eye contact, greetings,
acknowledgements, quick notes, high fives).
Building on the Clark County School District's new teacher induction program,
Bridget Phillips, has her own induction program at her school. In the past
six years she has had a zero attrition rate. To find out about her induction
program, please go to our column of January 2002 https://teachers.net/wong/JAN02/.
Signing Bonus or Success?
Would you rather have up to $5000 or the knowledge and skills that you
need to succeed as a teacher?
In April, 2002, an article appeared in the Times Picayune, the local
newspaper of New Orleans. It said that the New Orleans school district was looking
for business donations of $5000 to $2500, which they would match to use as signing
bonuses for teachers, with a condition to stay for three years. The help these
teachers would receive would be some evening classes. Yes, evening classes.
What good is an extra $2000 to $3000 if you leave teaching after one to three
years, which is typical of nearly all new teachers. You've wasted three years
of your life -- for $2000? You've also wasted years of preparation and tens
of thousands of dollars invested in your education. Add on the nagging thought
of your self-worth and the image that you failed at something. Your success
at what you do with your life is far more important than some signing bonus.
Therefore, it is much more important when you go for an interview, ask the interviewer
if the district has a new teacher induction program.
The research has shown that those teachers who are part of a district's
induction program are far more likely to succeed and stay in teaching, than those
who are just "thrown" into a room to teach.
Set High Expectations On The First Day
There is no beginning too small.
What To Do On The First Day of School
Use an opening assignment
Teach organizational skills
Learn students' names
Plan your first day down to the minute
The most important thing a teacher can provide a classroom the first week
of school is security or consistency (See page 85, The First Days
of School). Students do not want nor do they learn well in a disorganized
environment. If the furniture is movable, align all the desks on the first day
and continue to have them aligned until you change the room arrangement.
A well-organized, uncluttered, and attractive room gives a professional and
authoritative image that students respect. It is essential that you have your
room ready and inviting before the students come on the first day of school.
Have a bulletin board ready with schedules, rules, procedures, preview of
what is to come, a bulletin board area with pictures and information about you,
and a big welcome sign that says you are glad they are here in school.
Seen posted on a door
We're a class who Enjoys working and Learning together. We Care for One another and Make sure Everyone feels important.
Walter Douglas School
Wear clothing that is neat and pressed. As you are dressed, so shall you be
perceived. And as you are perceived, so shall you be treated.
Stand when you speak. Speak in short, clear sentences or phrases. The most
effective teachers have a firm, but soft voice. When you speak softly, the class
responds by speaking softly to hear you.
On the first days of school, do not be afraid to begin many of your sentences
with, "You will... (See page 111, The First Days of School)" The
first days of school are critical. Your mission on the first few days is to
establish student routines and classroom procedures.
When emphasizing, do not point your finger. It's an accusatory signal and
resembles a gun. Watch David letterman make a point. He uses his palm.
If you have very young students, place their name on their coat hooks, desks,
and cubbyholes. This is a message that you are organized and that you expect
them to use the same hook, desk, or cubbyhole every day. Many students like
the security of this routine, because many have a great deal of chaos at home.
Set up your own seating plan beforehand, as this helps you to get to know
your students fast. Address your students by name as fast as possible. This
is not only a friendly gesture, but prevents misbehaving when the students believe,
"Oh, oh, I better behave. She knows who I am."
Have your first "bellwork" assignment ready. Make it doable because you want
your students to have a sense of accomplishment. Students who fail early will
create problems in the classroom by sending out a message of frustrations.
Go to school earlier than normal, even an hour will go by quickly.
Use the extra time to double-check everything, making sure that your first day's
is ready. Then, spend a few minutes relaxing, smiling, and self-talking yourself
into high expectations for the year. Tell yourself:
I will establish classroom management procedures from the beginning.
I will convey that this class will be business-like, with a firm, competent,
and warm teacher.
I will establish work habits in my students first and worry about content
later. "You seemingly waste time at the beginning to gain time at the end"
(See page 193, The First Days of School).
Be just outside the door when the students arrive. This establishes
authority and also conveys that you consider them important enough to be waiting
to greet them. If young children are to line up before entering, insist on a
straight line. If you pick up your class from another area, don't say: "Follow
me" or "Come on." Rather, introduce yourself and then right there indicate what
procedure you want followed as they walk to your room (See page 109, The
First Days of School).
Do not allow the students to enter the room until you have determined
that they are ready to enter a room of academic achievement. This establishes
that you are the authority who knows how to conduct a classroom. This tells
them that it's your classroom and their classroom, not an area they are going
to annex or occupy.
When you talk to your students, refrain from finger pointing, using a frantic
voice, and constant jabbering as this will cause the students to imitate your
When the line is ready, praise them before you welcome them in.
Set High Standards For Yourself
Set high standards for yourself if you want a highly productive environment.
There is nothing more damaging than a teacher with low expectations, sloppy
dress, disorganized assignments and lessons, and the lack of classroom procedures
or routines. You must set high standards for yourself if you expect students
to meet high expectations of achievement.
If you do not take responsibility for yourself, no one else
will. It's that simple. You make a statement of dignity to yourself and the
teaching profession when you acknowledge and accept that you make a difference.
Best wishes as you set forth to make a difference, which is what teaching
is all about.