5 Ways to Start the School Year Strong
I can’t believe that it’s already time to start the school year again. Summer always seems to fly by. This time of year brings both excited and nervous energy, no matter how long I’ve been teaching.
Amidst the lesson planning, professional development days, and classroom “decorating”, I always make sure that I plan intentional ways to connect with my students, especially at the beginning of the year. Doing this does not have to entail spending a lot of time with each individual student. There are not enough hours in the school day to do that. However, there are many ways to connect with and build rapport with the students in your class that make them feel cared for. Here are a few that work in my classroom.
Give your students a glimpse into your life beyond the classroom.
Students, especially young students, think that teachers live at school. Share with your students some of your likes, dislikes, things you have done over the summer, hobbies, etc. Sharing about your life beyond the classroom walls makes you more human to students.
Greet and dismiss each student face to face every day.
This may prove to be the only time you personally connect with each individual student during the day, so this is extremely important. It shows that you are glad each student is there and is welcome. It builds community in your classroom. If you have younger students, get at their eye level during this interaction, which may mean getting on your knees.
Survey or graph “getting-to-know-you” questions.
Include topics such as ones you really may want to know such as: What time do you go to bed? But, also include very fun questions such as: Would you rather vacation at the beach or the mountains? And silly questions such as: Would you rather put mustard on your ice cream or in your cereal?
Develop a few “inside” jokes.
This is a great way to build rapport with a class and include everyone. This can be simple such as getting the students to say the same thing every time something happens. For example, early last year, I told my students that I wanted them to be happy at school while they were learning. The next time I drew the smile on a happy face, I said, “Because she’s happy to be at school” while I drew the smile. For the rest of the year, we all said it every time we drew smiles. It became an inside joke to only those in our class and it connected us together.
Have lunch with either a small group or whole class.
Invite groups of students to eat lunch with you during the first few weeks of school. You will learn much about your students during this unstructured time. If you have too many students to make this possible, go to where students eat lunch and eat with them there. This can be a fun tradition to carry through the entire year, as well.
These are just a few ideas, and you can add more of your own. As you start off a new school year, be conscientious about how you are connecting students and making them feel welcome in your classroom. The payoff will be great!