How to master the first weeks of school so you're happy the rest of the year | Mentoring in the Middle

How to master the first weeks of school so you're happy the rest of the year

When I sent my middle child off to half-day kindergarten, she came home the first few days and fell asleep on the couch.  Her little body was so exhausted!

I started teaching when my youngest was in first grade.  And I came home the first few days and fell asleep on the couch.

My slightly bigger body was exhausted!

The first day of school is usually a lot of fun.  And it's tiring for kids and teachers!  We're all coming off of summer schedules and the transition to desks and shoes (tell me about it!) can be a lot.  

So give yourself and your students the grace and the space to come together slowly, getting to know each other as you all get to know your way around the classroom and the school.

What I learned:

The longer I taught, the more I knew that I needed to spend a lot of time on routines, procedures, and building classroom community.  If my students didn't master those skills in the first few weeks of school, we'd be spending a lot of time later on going back and reviewing them, which I didn't want to do.

In the first few days, we spent a lot of time on active listening games.  

Want to create connections between students?  You can read more about how to do that in this blog post

In the following weeks, we spent less time, but it still was important to get routines in place so that students felt seen and heard, and so that the environment we were working together in felt safe.

Don't hesitate to practice them.

A lot.

Until you're happy.

Moving around the room:

  • What it looked like to move to a reading spot around the room with the chairs, pillows, and stuffed animals that made it more comfortable.  There were certain expectations about how to get there, whether or not you could get up once you were reading, and what tools you brought with you.
  • How to use centers or small groups - put students into them the first week with activities that are fun and easy to do (so that no pre-teaching is required).  Work instead on the parameters you have surrounding them - what are the rules, what are the must-dos?
Practice this.

Until they understand the expectations.

And you're happy.

Building a Reading Community:

In addition to playing games to get to know your students, read some picture books that show what's important to creating your classroom community.

You can read books that emphasize important values for the first week of school here.

Practice what it looks like when you read to them.  I sat in a rocking chair and had them come up on the floor closer to me.

Practice this, too.

Your students and the rules

Your students will forget - you'll probably forget on occasion - but the more you can stick to these routines, the happier you'll be.

  • A few days after going over the rules - play a Kahoot game to review them.  Your students will have fun and it's a good and fun way to reinforce what's important for you!
  • Or have the kids act out what to do and what not to do - that always gets a lot of laughs.
The most important thing

This is where I fell down in the early years.  Don't be me!

Keep reminding students.  Do it nonjudgmentally and with a bit of grace.  But do it.

You'll be happy you did.

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