Happy end of summer and welcome back to the school year!
After the first two weeks of school, things are starting to settle down as students and teachers re-adjust to full-time work. It amazes me how easy it is to start the year and work through a myriad of hiccups with five years of experience under my belt. It also amazes me when I think back to my first few years in the classroom and how far I’ve evolved in my teaching since then. New teachers are always told just how critical the first few weeks of school are in setting the tone for the rest of the year, but you don’t realize just how important it is until you start doing it well after a few years of learning from mistakes. This year more than ever I have my classroom management policies firmly in mind and I know what to say to set up various procedures and learning activities to make them most successful. I can see the results already and it yields huge dividends for improved student learning and less teacher stress. I just wish there were a better way to help new teachers learn these lessons faster, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed and burned out so early in their careers.
Even though I feel more confident in my teaching abilities, there are still some changes I’m making this year that I hope will enhance the learning in my classroom. First, I spent a lot of time last year and over the summer learning about Kagan strategies for active learning. I hope to use more group work and have already established using “side-to-side” and “front-to-back” partners so that students have to communicate with their peers on a regular basis. I can see what a huge difference it makes for even the simplest of activities if students are allowed to talk, share, and give feedback to each other. I will be using more manipulatives, movement and structured sharing all year long to improve many of my lessons.
Second, this year I started handing out all the unit’s materials in one single packet so that students would have an easy resources in one place. After the first round of experimentation, I can tell that this practice works wonders. I have fewer students asking for an extra copy, fewer students who are lost when they miss a day for absence, and less time wasted in transitioning activities because students already have the materials. It took some time to organize all my materials and make copies of the packets before teaching, but as the unit progresses it keeps students on track and understanding the scope of the unit. They can predict what’s coming next and for some it means they can work ahead at their own pace when they need more of a challenge. I’m working on ways to make the packets even more valuable and easy to use as I get feedback from students. But so far, a major success!
Lastly, this year I am so excited to take a role in leading professional development at my school. I’m working on the Professional Development Committee and I am also a mentor teacher for a first-year French teacher at my school. It’s so humbling to now be in a position to offer advice and suggestions now from an experienced perspective. I remember how challenging my first few years were and I don’t ever want to see a new teacher struggle with those same problems. Instead, I hope I can be a resource and improve the new teacher training as well as regular professional development offered at my school.
I’m so excited for another great year in the classroom. The start of the year reminds me that I’m in the right profession, because it never gets old knowing I’ll be learning just as much as the students this year.
Here’s to a happy, successful and fun school year!