Saturday, September 19, 2015

Keeping the Honeymoon Alive!

Ahhh...the honeymoon period of school!  Most of us have now been in school and back to work for at least two weeks. How is YOUR honeymoon coming along? Usually, teachers experience a lovely first few days of school with well-behaved students eager to learn and please.  As time goes on, the euphoria of those first few days starts to fade away, replaced by a classroom filled with students less likely to be excited about their new teacher, the new rules, new learning, new expectations, and everything else that was once new and good. So how do you keep the honeymoon alive and well?  Here are a few suggestions.

Smile and Remain Calm
Your attitude has more of an influence on your students than you can imagine. Students are like sponges and will drink in the positive or negative vibes you give off. They will reflect the energy they feel, creating a positive and healthy environment, or a hotbed of resentment and anger. Remain calm in trying and difficult situations. Take a breath! Sometimes it is wise to pick your battles, or at least put the conflict on hold until you are ready to address it.

Review Your Expectations

Review your expectations not only with your students but with yourself. This is your classroom. You have the right to expect those invited to be a part of your world for the next nine months to behave in the manner you need and want for maximum growth and development. Allow the students to be involved with what the class should look like, feel like, and sound like. Brainstorm and create a few rules together and add those to your list of non-negotiables.

Practice Procedures
Just the other day, I walked into a 4th grade classroom and witnessed a teacher having her students practice the procedures of daily life in her classroom. What a smart thing to do!  The 10-15 minutes spent each day on practicing procedures will save you hours of behavior issues throughout the year. Practice makes perfect!  Remember the golden rules of discipline:  Be fair, be firm, and be friendly. These simple, yet powerful words can make a teacher's life much easier.

Engage and Encourage
You can't rely solely on a syllabus or basal reader or textbook to engage your students. I know of some teachers that have taught the same lesson the same way for years! There has to be more that you bring to the table.  If you are bored with the lessons, so are your students.  Try using art and music to take your instructional design to the next level. Edutopia has a wonderful article that discusses using the arts to enhance the Common Core.
Use online resources, guest speakers, and projects to tear down the doors and walls of your classroom and open the minds of your students to the world. One of my favorite online resources is Ted Ed.

This wonderful site provides an easy platform for teachers to learn innovative ways to flip the classroom instruction, as well as choose from many ready-to-use videos submitted from other teachers.

EdPuzzle is another intriguing website!  With EdPuzzle, you can enhance a video with teacher-created questions, reflections, polls, audio overlays, and more in a quick and easy way. This is something that I am excited to use this year with my students.  I think videos are great as long as there is a way to measure understanding and accountability.  EdPuzzle does just that! I've included a link to a YouTube video for your convenience.  It is a tutorial that will explain the basics an what the site has to offer. It could be the best 8 minutes of your life!


Celebrate Success

Success comes in all different sizes, and is rarely a "one fit..fits all" type of situation.  Teach your students that they will all experience success this year, but probably at different times.  When one student in your class is successful, be sure to celebrate that achievement as a class.  My sister teaches third grade and makes it a point to have those crucial conversations with her students about individual achievements and how exciting even the smallest measure of success can be. Her students celebrate each other's successes every day.  There is no malice or jealousy involved, just pure excitement!

I wish you all great success and an extended and happy honeymoon!

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