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The First Days and Weeks of School

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Paula Bowles

on 7 August 2013

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Transcript of The First Days and Weeks of School

The First Days &
Weeks of School

I have over a decade of experience in urban schools and beginning my 10th year at Brighton High.
I have mentored many student teachers and worked as a New Teacher Developer for BPS.
I am certified in History, English and ESL.
I love my job and take enormous pride in it.
Who am I to give you advice?
Create a "To Do" list that has as many specific tasks as possible.

Create a calendar of the days between now and the first day of school.

Fill in what you can do each day to prepare for school.
What can you do right now to prepare?
What can you do so the first few days go smoothly?
What are some things to keep in mind for the first few days and beyond?
What you can do BEFORE school starts
What you can do BEFORE school starts
If you know what you teaching, get even more familiar with the curriculum.

Read not only the texts that students will be learning, but go a level deeper.
Work on your syllabus as soon as you know what you are teaching.

Take a look at the syllabi of teachers at you school as well as the school's policy handbook before hand (they are usually online).
What you can do BEFORE school starts
Find out who your official mentor is and try to connect with them.
If you do not have a mentor yet, see if you can get the name of a teacher in your department.
Ask them specific questions about curriculum, schedule, policies etc.
What you can do BEFORE school starts
Plan minute by minute for the first 2 weeks.
Have a rough set of plans for the first month.
Preparing will give you time to focus on getting to know the students, administrative duties, school routines and culture.
Be flexible and know that plans will change.
What you can do BEFORE school starts
Find out about your school's copy machine policy and see when you can begin copying.
Photocopy as much as you can before the first few days.
General copy etiquette:
save large amounts for "off times" or use your school's copy center.
copy for less than 5 minutes in the AM before school starts.
What you can do BEFORE school starts
Find out when you can get in your class room and begin to set up.

See what the school provides and think about what you can not teach without...THEN look around for FREE stuff, THEN shop.

Know your room won't be perfect right away, instead aim for neat and functional.
What you can do BEFORE school starts
Think about the organization systems that will keep things flowing smoothly in your class.
How will students turn in work to you?
Do you require a binder or a notebook?
How do students get their work if they are absent?
What do students do with returned work?
How do you avoid the time-wasters? ("I don't have a pen", "I don't have any paper" "I don't know what I am supposed to do")
How will you keep your own materials organized?
How will you take attendance?
How will students check their grade?
What will students do everyday when they enter the room?
What you can do BEFORE school starts

Get used to your new schedule and routine:

A week before school begins, start waking up to your alarm and going to sleep at a reasonable time.

Make sure you are working to prep for school, but also make time for yourself.
What you can do BEFORE school starts
Begin teaching content immediately--it sets the tone that you do not waste time in your class.

Avoid too many (or any) "getting to know you" games. It is likely that students already know each other.

Give students work on the first day that gives you a glimpse into their skills. Review all student work before day two.
First day & beyond: Teaching & Learning
Give homework on the first day--it can be something simple like answering questions about the syllabus (which you should give to students on the first day).

Give content-related homework within the first two days, but allow them to begin it in class in case they have any questions.
First day & beyond: Teaching & Learning
Have a few activities to fill time in case your plans run short.
These activities should be:
directly related to the content the students are learning.
interactive and engaging--so it doesn't seem "like extra work".
Keep the structure of assignments fairly simple in the beginning, but challenge them intellectually as much as you can.

There should be no major projects or assignments that take intense planning or management for the first few weeks.

Make sure all of the instructions that you give to students are very clear--written as well as verbal.
First day & beyond: Teaching & Learning
Show the students how your class will generally be structured. Be predictable, but not boring:
Workshop model is an organized way to begin.
Class should begin the same way everyday with "mini-lesson" (predictable).
Look for a variety of activities that help students learn during "guided practice" (not boring).
Repeat these activities as you move through the curriculum (predictable).
First day & beyond: Teaching & Learning
First day & beyond: Teaching & Learning
The daily agenda and learning objectives should be posted every day.

Students and visitors should be able to see what is happening in class without having to ask you.

Get in the habit of posting current student work--again for students as well as visitors.
First day & beyond: Logistics & Organization
Have your seating chart posted on the projector or overhead when the students first walk in.

Give the students an activity to work on, THEN go through their names aloud.
First day & beyond: Logistics & Organization
There will be many administrative duties in the beginning--keep all memos, instructions and admin papers organized.

Make sure you do all admin duties...don't forget any!

Ask other teachers if you are confused about what you need to do.
First day & beyond: Logistics & Organization
Put all of your organizational plans into practice every day.

Have an "in-box" for each class to put their work in and keep it organized.
Have your own papers for lessons organized.

Neaten up your classroom and your "piles" everyday before you leave (also a good time to put up the next day's agenda).

Try to have everything you need for the next day ready before you go...but not if it means you will be there until 6 o'clock.
First day & beyond: Logistics & Organization
Make sure your rules and routines are in synch with who YOU are as a person and as a teacher.

Do not overwhelm students with too many "dos and don'ts" right away.

Only present your "non-negotiable" rules on day one (should be less than 5).

Explain your routines as they come up.

Don't be annoyed if you have to re-explain most things in the beginning.
First day & beyond:
Management & Relationships
You do not need to be really intense to have good management.
You must be even-keeled, reasonable & earn their respect though.

Ways to earn the respect of the students:
be, dress and act professional
be friendly, but do not try to be their friend
model respect and follow your own rules
work as hard as you are asking them to
be honest and transparent about their grades
show them that you enjoy your job, but take it seriously
show them you respect their time and their other obligations
First day & beyond:
Management & Relationships
Learn the students' names right away.
Try to learn a bit about each student personally.
Pay attention to who and how they interact with each other... bullies and victims are not always apparent.
Pay attention to their academic skills to find ways to test their baseline knowledge in your subject.
Ask your student support team right away about any kids who raise red flags--either academically or socially (also applies to students in crisis).
First day & beyond:
Management & Relationships
First day & beyond:
Management & Relationships
Be ready for a student to challenge you in front of the class.
Stay calm and keep your voice down--especially if they are angry.
Remove the audience by speaking just to the student quietly, or asking them to step outside.
Give them a chance to explain and apologize (if necessary).
Don't be afraid to apologize if you have over-reacted (it models appropriate behavior).
Move on and give them a clean slate.
Save the "discipline forms" for really egregious things (pick your battles).
Full transcript