Monday, July 20, 2020

For New Teachers Who Are Teaching In-Person Classes: Some Commonsense Suggestions for the Start of the School Year

As a new teacher, the start of your first year of teaching is often an exciting and anxious time for many reasons. This year is no exception. Already the start of the 2020-2021 school year is fraught with enough stressful decisions to daunt even the most steadfast of educators. Whether you are teaching online or in a hybrid situation or in a classroom, this school year requires a great deal of planning and commitment.  When you factor out divisive politics and all the other strife associated with starting this school year, there is room for what teachers do so well: make sound decisions based on common sense and the need to support all students. This is particularly true for teachers who are teaching in-person classes. As a first-year teacher, while this may not be the start of the career that you have dreamed of, there are several things that you can do to make sure that you and your students start the school year in a positive and effective way. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it can serve as a start to help you think through how to manage some of the challenges ahead.

Take time to completely familiarize yourself with the reopening guidelines of your school, your district, and your state. Search their websites carefully. Pay careful attention to what is expected of you this year as well as what is expected of students and their parents and guardians. In particular, spend time educating yourself about classroom safety procedures. Knowing what to do will make it easier for you to feel more confident about how you will handle the new school year as well as how to keep your students and yourself safe.

It’s important to plan for student misbehavior and noncompliance related to the health and safety of all students. Talk with other educators about the best practices in your school concerning students who test the boundaries of social distancing or mask wearing or other safety issues related to the pandemic. A united approach will make it much easier to enforce the guidelines established by your district and school.

Although you may have learned many innovative learning strategies while you were training to become an educator, be careful to only implement those that meet the health and safety guidelines of your district and school.

As you learn more about your daily schedule, plan how you will make it as easy as possible for your students to follow classroom rules and procedures. What can you do to streamline routines and procedures? What can you do to ensure students understand both the positive and negative consequences of their behavior?  And how can you build a relationship with each student so that your classroom environment is safe and productive?

Plan, too, how you will present yourself to your students. The best teachers adopt a deliberate attitude of warmth and caring paired with a no-nonsense expectation of effort and mutual respect. Spend time brainstorming different ways to project this attitude so that your students will know that you care about them, but that you expect positive behavior from them.

Streamline and simplify your classroom and your professional life. For example, even though you may have dreamed for years of the perfect classroom, it’s more important this year to keep the focus on learning and safety. Being organized and purposeful will help you accomplish all that you need to do. Keep things as simple as possible.

Maintain a transparent classroom by reaching out to the parents and guardians of your students frequently. While it may take extra time to do this, the rewards will make your effort worth the trouble as you create an effective partnership to keep everyone safe.

Allow more time than usual for students to adjust to being in a classroom again. It will take a while to get your students acclimated to being in a classroom and working productively. It is reasonable to expect that many students will be anxious and will act out. It is also reasonable to expect that there will be deficits in previous learning. Be patient with them and reteach as often as necessary.