It’s that time of year again! Summer break is winding down, and the smells of sunscreen and chlorine will soon be replaced with those of freshly sharpened pencils You will soon be getting your room ready and getting your class lists – 20 or more names that will quickly become part of the fabric of your every day. Their bright, shining faces will soon be sitting in your classroom, ready to tackle the excitement of second grade. But behind those freckled faces and crooked grins, there are complicated little people who desperately need their teacher to know more about them. Here’s what your students hope you know about them.
“Who will be in my class?” “Will my teacher like me?” “Are things going to get harder?” While the start of a new school year is exciting, the unknown can also be nerve-wracking! Between now and the end of the school year, your kids will likely spend more of their waking hours with you than their parents (or other primary caregivers). Investing time in those first days teaching routines and expectations before diving headfirst into curriculum will help alleviate nerves, give students consistency, and make classroom management much easier in the days and weeks ahead.
Things in my life have been hard.
Many of your students have faced a lot in their eight or nine years. Their parents may have recently divorced; an older brother or sister may have left for college; a new baby may be waiting for them when they come home. Others may struggle to read and write or have a hard time with focus and attention, making school tasks exceptionally challenging. Some students may have experienced more severe trauma: homelessness, hunger, abuse. Many times these experiences make it hard for them to trust adults, including you, their teacher. Regardless of what your students may (or may not) have faced, taking the time to learn about them, their backgrounds, and their home life builds a foundation that will be invaluable as the year progresses. A great way to do this is by inviting your students’ families to write you a letter, opening up those lines of positive communication early.
I hope you like me.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This couldn’t be more true than it is with your students. Building strong relationships is the single most powerful tool you have in your teacher toolbox. Kids will work harder and be kinder in a classroom where they feel valued, important, and loved. Take the time at the beginning of the year to really get to know your students and build that trust, and you will see it pay off all year long.
Even the most seasoned educators get the jitters the night before school starts, and if we’re feeling it, we know our kids are, too. The carefree summer days are wonderful, but returning to the stability and routine of our classrooms is a welcome change for all of us. Having rules and procedures along with rewards will help kick the year off strong.
One of the things I love most about teaching is the fact that each fall brings another new group of kids and another chance to start fresh. There’s a certain magic that comes along with a new school year, and that magic arrives in four-feet tall, freckle-faced little packages. As you open your heart and your arms on those first days of school, it helps to pause, take a moment, and remember what your students hope you know.
Happy back to school!