At the start of the school year, it’s easy to get caught up in setting up the class and starting the curriculum. Then, once you and your students have learned a little about each other and are working hard each day, you kind of get into a pattern – a hopefully-comfortable sort of rhythm to what you’re working on together. But there’s another learning partner that it’s important not to forget: the parents!
Establishing contact with parents and guardians at the start of any new term is absolutely vital.
I’ve never actually heard anyone seriously offer the old saw “Don’t smile until Christmas” as genuine advice to a teacher. But I think that teachers – especially new teachers – are often worried that if they’re friendly and approachable to students, their classes will devolve into chaos. While this can happen, it doesn’t have to!
Even now, after almost a decade and a half of teaching, the first day of school is still exciting and more than a little nerve-wracking. But I’ve come up with some activities that help me set a tone that supports taking risks and working hard, which I feel are the core values needed for effective learning.
Students’ first assignment is a set of six questions that are on the dry erase board as they enter the room. There is a stack of scrap paper on the cart in front of the room. When I have one-sided photocopies that I ran incorrectly, I cut them into quarters and use them for passes and assignments like this one. This helps students realize that I’m looking for brief responses.