Classes for the new school year are starting in as little as a few days for some teachers and we’re all staring into the proverbial faces of a class full of new students. While the first few days are often exciting and everyone seems to be on their best behavior, it doesn’t take long for cold, hard reality to set in. Students to start feeling the stresses of both their home and school lives, and then, of course, you start feeling your stress, as well. This usually starts to become very noticeable in October (and then again in February).
So what can you do right at the beginning to make sure that you and your students start off on the right foot?
One teacher whom I follow on Twitter asked a question that I thought really went to the heart of this problem:
How do I create rules with students when I have five classes? With two classes over 40? #teacherproblems
My answer setting up classroom rules: DON’T.
I understand the concept that if you work with your students to create rules, they will have more buy in. Of course, the majority of the students who are going to buy in through this process will do so anyway. That said, even a student who has bought in may still have a bad day depending on what is happening at home, in their social life, or in their other classes.
That said, the handful of students who are not ever going to buy in will find loopholes in all the rules you setup. So, if you have a rule stating that students should not throw pencils across the room — they will slide pencils across the floor, or throw a pen instead. See what I mean?
So what can you do?
Instead, establish four guidelines. Here are the four that I use:
- Do nothing to stop me from teaching
- Do nothing to stop others from learning
- Do respect yourself and others
- Do work your hardest
Then discuss the guidelines you’ve given the students with each class. Ask them what it respecting yourself and others looks like. Ask them what they should and should not do to respect you as you’re teaching.
The kids have been in school for years. They know what the rules are. They’ll think of dozens. Write them down, or let them write them down. Laugh about the funny stuff they mention, like no table surfing during independent reading time.Let students know that you want them to be successful, that when you redirect them or ask them to conference with you in the hallway (or another location without a student audience), it is to find out how you can be a better teacher… Click To Tweet
Yes, you’ve got to tell them that you love them. I have two posters in my room that say, “Anyone student who’s ever been in my class will always be one of my kids.” I point to that poster when I tell them that I love them all. Those kids who are going to drive you the most nuts this year? They need to hear this the most.
Love the kids, meet them where they are, then push them to grow. Do those things and you’ll be a much better classroom LEADER.
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I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.