New teachers, are you busy preparing for the first week of school? The first week of school is undoubtedly important (and you should prepare) but above all: don’t worry too much. The best thing you can do before the first day is to get a good night’s sleep and relax. If you’re worried and nervous, your students will know, and that’s never a great way to start the year. Above all, here are a handful of mistakes you want to be careful not to make.
I was a public school teacher for a number of years, and I’ve worked in education in just about every role imaginable for over a decade. I’ve seen novice teachers (myself included) make the following mistakes, and I want to make sure you learn from me and them!
Mistake #1: “We’ve got so much material to get through that I am just going to dive in on the first day.”
True, you do have a lot of material to cover, but that is absolutely not a reason to jump in on the first day. You have too much other important work to get done on the first week including getting to know your students, going over rules and procedures, and setting the right tone for the year. Jumping in to material is like building a house without worrying about the foundation. Sooner or later, you will regret the decision.
Mistake #2: “It’s the first week. I will let it slide this one time.”
As you try to get to know your students better and build relationships, don’t make the mistake of being too lenient during that first week. Rules have consequences and if they break a rule (no matter how small), then they have to accept the consequences. If you let them off too easily, you are sending the wrong signals. There is a time for leniency, but not in that first week.
Mistake #3: “I will deal with the paperwork some other time.”
Do you have forms to fill and data to receive from your students (address, phone number, etc.)? Do it now, for two reasons. First, if you don’t do it now, you will never get to it. Second, if you need contact information from your students, the first day is the best time. Have you ever asked a student for his phone number so you could call his mother and tell her about his behavior? That is never an easy thing to do!
Mistake #4: “I can’t smile for at least the first month!”
Yes, I have heard that one too, and it is 100% wrong. The theory, I believe, is that you want to start out strict, and then slowly ease up on your students. This isn’t a bad plan and if you’re speaking to your class as a whole, it is fine to adopt a stern attitude. But when speaking one-on-one to a student, a softer tone (and a smile) is often warranted. If you speak to each individual student differently than you do the group, then they will likely start to recognize how special they are.