The first day of any new program, whether it is a summer camp, after-school activity or the first day of school is an exciting and nerve-racking time for the children. They are eagerly anticipating meeting you (the adult responsible for them) and they are wondering so many things about you….Are you nice? Will you like them? Will you help them if they get stuck? Will you yell at them if you make a mistake? Will you challenge them? Will you be funny?
There are so many things going on in those first few days, I wanted to put together a simple checklist for educators to help bring attention to things that will make a lasting impact on the success of your students and your relationship with them. I am certain you do many of these already, but often it is helpful to see things in a list as a reminder so things don’t slip through the cracks.
21 Things For Educators To Remember For Back To School
1. Greet your students with a warm smile, shake their hand and get to know 5 things about each of them – start to build a genuine relationship.
2. Dress to impress – wear something that you feel comfortable and “good” in. We always exclude more confidence when we are happy with what we are wearing.
3. Write a letter to the parents of each of your students and have it ready to send home on the first day. The contents will introduce yourself to the parents, outline your philosophies and goals for the year and pave a path of communication and support.
4. Play name games on the first day so the kids in your class can learn other students’ names. Building connections on day one is important so everyone feels included, acknowledged and part of the group.
5. Learn each student’s name yourself and use their name at least once on the first day of school.
6. Make sure you give your students a tour of the classroom and the building so they know where key places are.
7. Introduce your students to important staff around the school (principals, vice-principals, school secretaries, specialty teachers, custodians etc.) Familiarizing students with key staff in a positive way helps to build a strong school community.
8. Pay attention to children who are shy and have strategies in your back-pocket to implement so you can integrate them into the group quickly. Focus on friendship building activities during the first couple of weeks.
9. Make sure you are aware of any medical conditions that the children may have and their proper ongoing treatment. Contact parents in advance to ask for any details that are missing from health forms.
10. If you have students with special needs or physical limitations do you have modifications to your lessons ready so that they can actively participate at their level?
11. Ensure you know of any allergies that your students might have and the proper treatment if they are exposed. If any are life-threatening, notify students, parents and other staff as per your school’s guidelines.
12. Make sure your classroom is free of any known allergens that could affect a child who is allergic.
13. Review emergency procedures so they are fresh in your mind.
14. Facilitate lots of teambuilding games and songs – this will set the tone for the year and focus on developing your class as a strong team. More emphasis on this in the first couple of weeks will pay off well throughout the year. Take the time and turn your students into a strong, positive and supportive group. (For character education and teambuilding games click here)
15. Post emergency procedures in your classroom.
16. Have your students do goal setting activities so you know what they hope to achieve in the upcoming year.
17. Spend time setting classroom rules and expectations. Put them in writing and have your students contribute to the creation of them. If they create them they are more likely to respect and follow them.
18. Play music that inspires togetherness, creativity and fun.
19. Make sure all your supplies and equipment are ready before the kids arrive.
20. Ensure you have the students FULL attention before you start speaking. The first interaction you have with them sets the tone for future interactions, so if you talk over your students you are setting yourself up for problems later.
21. Think about how you can make your first lesson with them interesting and stimulating. This is your change to hook them in and show them how great an educator you are.
Of course, there are probably many other things that you need to do to kick off a successful new school year. I hope these 21 points will help you zone in on some important areas that when executed fully, will set you up for a great group of student and a wonderful school year!