A few weeks ago, after moving my youngest son to his room at college, I was driving to visit my oldest son. With some quiet time in the car I started reflecting on how the school year has started at my client schools. This led me to the whole idea of smooth starts to school. What does that mean, to have a smooth start? Does it mean there are few scheduling conflicts? Probably important in a high school but this can be a concern in elementary schools when scheduling library time or STEAM labs individually with teachers. Does it mean all your curricular materials arrived on time, no backorders? Even more important did they arrive in the correct classrooms?
After spending the first week in a client school, the administration and I felt that we had had a smooth start. Almost all the curriculum resources were in, only a few back ordered items (Yay!) Most students seemed to be making the transition from summer to school well. The new teachers were over prepared in their lesson plans. The new student information system did make taking attendance easier. So yes, a smooth start.
Smooth starts are important! The tweets and articles say so. But what is the benefit of a smooth start? For me, it sets a tone for the school year. When I was teaching, a smooth start was several weeks long. I taught Kindergarten for 6 years and these young learners, take several weeks of modeling procedural expectations for it to “take.” Does that mean no academics got introduced, of course not! But also introduced was:
- How to rotate during centers -this allowed me later to take small groups or individual students with the confidence that the remaining students could be working on their assignments effectively.
- How to silently ask to use the restroom so that learning could continue.
- How to respond to a “sharing” with a question or comment about the sharing and not about themselves. – Important social learning, to be an active listener to someone.
- Where are the important things like the office, nurse, playground are in the school. Knowing this allowed my messengers to have confidence and independence in their role.
- Where are the supplies kept in the classroom. Students should have ownership of knowing they are free to get supplies when needed. So, they also need practice in knowing when they actually need a supply.
These are just a few items that are modeled, practiced, modeled again, practiced again before the class can be a community of learners who know the procedures and expectations for a smooth year, not just a smooth start.
George Couros reminded us in a recent blog about a past blog post: 10 Easy Ways To Create an Amazing #ClassroomCulture This Year. (https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/9181, https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6612 ) One key he says is to build positive relationships. I totally agree. If our students trust us to support them as they grow then they will take the advantage of the opportunities we provide to grow. Those relationships start on Day 1 but build each day after.
So what if your year did not get off to the start you want, call a do over! No, you can’t go back in time but you can call a time out. Maybe you just need to evaluate some of your procedures and explain to the class that you want to discuss what is working for this class community and what needs a change. Then carefully think through that change and model it. Maybe it means making that extra effort to be standing at the door each morning to say hello to each student.
A final thought…
Now what? Kayla Delzer (@TopDogTeaching) posted on Twitter: “What are we doing to make sure kids are this excited to come back to school every day – not just the first day?”
So how did your first days go? What are you continuing to do maintain the joy of learning? Share with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally posted on Tuesday, 10 September 2019.