Six weeks of holiday can seem like a long time a t the beginning. Six long weeks for yourself, away from school; catching up on your reading for fun, late summer nights, mid-week brunches, sleeping past 9am and, let’s not forget, the elimination of Sunday night blues and Mondayitis.
Once they’ve started, it’s the usual scenario of ‘time flies by when you’re having fun’. Before you know it, the anticipation of starting the new academic year is beginning to edge in and it is time to prepare and plan for the first week of school.
The first week of school, Teachers are planning for the unknown – mostly an unknown class dynamic, whether completely new students, new year groups, or new mix of students. And, as is good practise, a teacher’s job (second to teaching) is planning – hard when you’re not quite sure who you’re teaching yet. Let’s not forget the added bonus that might be there; there is a good possibility that you’re starting at a new school this academic year.
So how we do it all and keep calm and collected in front of the ever inquisitive students?
Rely on the curriculum
When you’re not sure where to start, the easiest beginning is to go through the admin. Secondary School is great for that. You will have an outline of what you’re supposed to teach over the terms (topics, texts etc.) – the skeleton of the subject matter. As part of setting up your classroom expectations, sharing the course curriculum with your students establishes your class dynamic and introduces the idea of student ownership.
If you are in the position where you have a whole new class, where students are shy or haven’t had the chance to get to know each other, games are a great way to start off the year. The selection below is great to get the students’ brains going along with their creativity.
Two Truths and a Lie – This game is fantastic for creativity. The trick is to not embellish the lie so much so that they don’t believe it.
Never Have I Ever – Don’t get confused with the drinking game here!
I went to market and bought a…
Our House, our rules
For the most part, you will see these students every school day for the entire academic year. So it’s important to set things up the way you want it from the get go. A class contract is the best way to do this as well as establish respect and values with your students, giving the overall message to take responsibility for your actions. You might be lucky enough to plan a whole lesson around it.
Organise your classroom
Luckily the first few days of the academic year are always dedicated to preparation and professional development; a good time to get your classroom in order. Raid the stationary closet! You will soon realise quite quickly that you will need to have an organisational system in place – think of loose worksheets, left over exercise books, stray pencils, pens and glue sticks. Thank the web for Pinterest!
Keep track of your marking so that it doesn’t get out of hand. Everyone is guilty of starting the year fresh and well prepared. But as the term goes on, things can tend to get away from you. Set yourself with a schedule and a timetable from the beginning. If you are a Secondary Teacher, work out the days you don’t see particular students on so that you can plan suitable turnarounds that don’t kill your weekends.
Not sure how to start the first topic at school? Not quite sure about your students’ abilities? ‘Assessment’ might be a bit of a strong word, but it can be a necessary one at school. Create a fun way to do a few diagnostic tests on your students.
If all else fails at the start of the year, what students are going to value most is you taking the time to get to know them. It will set you up for the whole year and help you in those sticky situations where you need to get students on side (let’s avoid wanting to count down the days).
By Alexandra 'Drabs' Drabczynska