Back To School Insights For The New Year
Back to school time is approaching. For some of you, summer break is over and you are heading back to school. For others, you have another month to go. Of course, as teachers, many of you are already thinking about the new school year and some of the things you will be doing.
I hope you have had time to rest and recharge and that you will have a renewed energy and motivation to get started again. After an exhausting and unprecedented year of teaching through a pandemic, it will be great to return to the classroom again and back to some of the familiar routines and activities.
Here are some insights and suggestions that I hope will help you based on what I have learned throughout the years.
Returning to school this fall will be a bit different since it is at the end of a very difficult year teaching during a pandemic. There will still be some uncertainty as to how things will progress. Will there be another wave, more online or hybrid teaching situations, or extra precautions needed in the physical classroom? Hopefully not, but we still need to be somewhat prepared.
Take what you have learned from teaching virtually and use the good parts to enhance your in-person teaching. Have a plan for teaching using a mixture of in-person and online activities. That way, you can find a blend that works with the current situation. It may not be as overwhelming that way. Many teachers have decided that they will continue to use digital resources in the classroom to supplement their teaching this year.
Preparing For Back To School
Setting up a special classroom environment for teaching is not necessary, but it will definitely make a difference to both the kids and you if it is inviting and well laid out. Just like people are attracted to different homes and designs when choosing a place to live, kids will have an emotional response to their classroom environment.
I know it is not always easy to get into the room ahead of time and do decorating and arranging, but even small things like pops of color, desk groupings, messages on the board, and special centers will help create a positive atmosphere. Once school begins, the kids can perhaps help with adding special touches to the class decor.
Getting Ready For The First Day
Every school and district has it own way of getting classes organized and ready for the new year. In our district, the classes are determined by the numbers of students enrolled and a class size formula. That means that the classes are not finalized until the end of the first week of school.
Instead of forming classes and then restructuring them all after a few days of school, the standard process is to have students return to their classes from the previous year. New students are added to classes of similar ages/grades. After the numbers are finalized, new classes are formed and the whole school is shuffled on the same day.
This process works, but it does require some extra planning when deciding on what activities to do, what the classroom set up will be, and how to make the new students feel welcome and included in a class that is already familiar with rules and routines.
When the reconfiguration is done, some students will move to different classes and some will remain in the same classroom. It is important that they feel special if they are staying with you. I will elaborate more in the next blog post.
School Rules and Routines
It is important to know what your must have rules are for the classroom and also which ones are flexible. During the first few days of school, if you are still not in the final class configurations, some of these rules can be introduced and practiced right away. Regardless of the different groupings, school rules can be introduced and practiced.
There are different ways of doing this. One practice that we have used in the past, is to create family groupings of mixed ages and have them rotate throughout the day to different teachers for lessons on specific rules and expectations. That way, every student is getting the same instruction and information for each expectation.
Another method is to have a school wide chart of expectations posted in each classroom and have the assigned teacher go over each of the expectations with his/her class. Or perhaps, buddy classes could combine to do these lessons.
Remember Self Care
It is important to remember self care as you return to school. Get lots of rest and give yourself some slack. I remember how exhausting the first few weeks of school was. Even though you intellectually know it will be tiring, it still comes as a bit of a shock when it actually happens.
Being well planned will help you to get through this. Brain breaks and physical movement will not only help your students as they adjust to being in school all day, it will give you a mental break and perhaps help you to get through the day better as well.
Next time I will focus more on the first week of school and ways to start the year off positively.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.