Educators…it’s time to go back to school! The countdown to your first day back in the classroom is close. Are you ready?
At this point in the summer, that thought of “I have to go back to the classroom soon” is becoming more difficult to ignore each day. The start of a new school year often brings stress to an educator. Not because they have to return to the classroom, but because they don’t know where to start after being out of the mix for two months. And often that stress leads to…”I’ll just do what I did last year.” Are you guilty of this? I have been. So what did I learn from this? I didn’t get any better as a teacher. I dug myself a giant hole of mediocrity. And soon enough my classes saw it. Hearing my students say comments like “we did this activity last year” was that ladder of motivation I needed to get myself out of that hole.
Over the last decade, I’ve learned there are two ways you can go when you hit that fork in the road that is the “first month of school.” You can do what you normally do in year’s past and keep everything the same. OR, you can start fresh and try something new in your classroom.
The biggest misconception I have heard about implementing new ideas in the classroom is “it’s an investment of time I don’t have.” False! If you want to start with success, start small. Don’t look at the whole year, look at the first month.
So here’s your challenge. Set 3 small goals you feel would be a realistic accomplishment within your first month of school. These goals can pertain to instructional strategies, classroom design, or lesson structure.
Need some help? Here are 3 ways to I have won my school year within the first month.
Develop a routine for yourself. Start with a time in the school day you can complete those regular tasks. Set that time and stick to it! I dedicated my mornings to cross off those tasks. It was quiet, but most importantly, convenient for me. We all have busy lives. Choose a time during the day that works best for you. When you find that time, think of what needs to be done. I used my time for emails, classroom setup, grading, and planning future lessons. Trust me, your day will feel 1,000% more productive if you can eliminate small tasks before they add up and overwhelm you.
Develop a routine with your students. THIS IS A MUST FROM DAY ONE. Eliminate the guessing game with your students. If they know what to do from the get go, productivity will go up, and management will go down. I break my lessons into three components: 1) Instant Activity, 2) Core of Lesson, 3) Closure. Stick with these components and form that consistency with your students. Don’t expect perfection on day one. It may take time. BUT…promise me, you will not give up when it gets rough. Stick with it, and be consistent. I implemented a structured instant activity with my classes that at the beginning seemed like a nightmare to many (including my teaching partner). Soon enough, my students expected it every day they walked in my door. The storm calmed and I soon had a routine that promoted student-led learning.
Team building with your colleagues. Strengthen your chemistry with your teaching partner(s) and/or colleagues with some good old-fashioned bonding. Get out to a “happy hour,” go golfing, or even chat about the weekend by the water cooler. Building relations with whom you work with will make your program a powerhouse not to be reckon with!
Team building with your students. Get your students to work together. Teach them those life skills that can only be developed with teamwork. Incorporate problem solving activities within your lessons. Create small group tasks and presentations. It is only when students are comfortable working with one another that you can have them reach their potential. Here’s a great team building activity I have used in my Physical Education classes and here are some great team building games from GOPHER (many of which I have used) that would work with most grade levels.
Challenge yourself with a skill that makes you uncomfortable to perform. Find that activity or skill you are uncomfortable performing or demonstrating in front of your students and work on it. I taught “Circus Arts” to my elementary classes years ago. I was a novice on stilts and my students knew it. I found time to practice, mastered the skill, and got to show my proficiency the day I introduced stilts to my class. I felt that instant gratification seeing smiles and hearing hand claps from the little bodies around my classroom.
Challenge your students with a skill that make them uncomfortable to perform. The satisfaction one receives when mastering a new skill is priceless. One easy motivator for students is having them write down a skill they would like to improve on and master. Hold onto those goals and find times to revert back to these throughout the year. Goals lead to motivation. Motivation leads to higher learning.
If I’ve learned anything as a Physical Educator over the last decade, I know goal-setting goes a long way. Think about those little things that can take your teaching and your program to a whole new level. I encourage you to explore ALL options available to you. Once you have three goals, go out there and get started!
I am always looking for new ideas I can share with the Health and Physical Education teachers I support in my district. If you currently use goal-setting as that motivator to enhance your instructional strategies, classroom design, or lesson structure, what ideas have led to your success in the classroom? Share this success with your colleagues.
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