It’s hard to believe the summer is almost over. Like so many seasons in life, it came and went in the blink of an eye. Now educators across the country are getting ready for another school year, and there is plenty of work to be done. The first few weeks of school are always a little challenging. There’s so much to navigate – the new rooms, the new supplies, as well as the new responsibilities for the year. However, if the important things are kept in perspective, teachers can not only meet the demands of the new year, but usher in a fantastic season of growth for their students.

So, what should educators keep in mind as they open the doors on a new year of learning? Here are just five things to remember:    
  • Build Community: Building your classroom community is the first and most important step in starting off any school year. Developing relationships and creating trust with each student is key to laying a solid foundation for the social, emotional, and academic gains of each child. One way to accomplish this is by having students create a classroom contract which sets the expectations they have for themselves and the classroom. This not only gets students working together towards a common goal, but it also gets them to invest personally in their classroom environment. When students have a voice in creating the rules, they are more likely to follow them.
  • Communication is Key: Establishing healthy communication with your classroom can go a long way in ensuring student success. Have students communicate to others that they hear, empathize, and understand their perspective by teaching active listening skills like clarifying, summarizing, and withholding judgment. By teaching these skills with intention, you’ll help your students become successful listeners. Another possibility is to have students circle up and discuss specific topics for a set amount of time. This gives them an opportunity to practice respectful debate.
  • Take Risks and Persevere: A new year means new opportunities, both for you and your students. Take this chance to try new things in the classroom, and if they don’t work, use the experience as fuel to persevere. Try modeling perseverance for your students with a “Mistake of the Day” award which celebrates mistakes as learning opportunities. Model perseverance with pictures and stories of real-life individuals who overcame great odds. Show your students that they have everything they need to succeed in the classroom – they just need to stop seeing failure as something final.
  • Remember to Rest: Let’s face it, teaching is a lot of work. It’s incredibly easy for educators to get overwhelmed and burned out as the year progresses. Be sure to prepare for this by setting healthy boundaries and managing your time wisely. For instance, remember to be frugal with your “yesses”. If you’re stretched too thin, be prepared to politely turn down new commitments. Knowing when to slow down or even stop is important as well. Remember, if you give %100 of your energy to anything you’ll have nothing left for yourself.
  • Have Fun!: Above all, remember to have fun! This new year is a chance to grow, explore, and discover new things alongside your students. Make learning fun with hands-on, inquiry-based activities that students can apply to their communities. Look for engaging field trips or participate in read-alouds to get students excited about literacy. There’s so much to learn in a short amount of time, so remember to enjoy the journey with your students.

If you found these strategies to be helpful, then be sure to check out Blue Apple’s Strategy Explorations. Strategy Explorations provide educators with a variety of creative, practical ideas for the classroom. Simply select a topic from the list and discover an abundance of teacher-tested strategies that will expand your teaching toolkit. The prospect of a new school year might be daunting, but don’t worry – you’ve got this. So long as you remember to keep the important things in perspective, you’ll be able to meet this year with purpose, creativity, and grit.

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