The First Year Teaching: Getting off to a good start
By Matthew Lynch
Establishing a well managed classroom should be a top priority for all new teachers. Beginning a career in teaching is greatly aided if you are able to provide an environment that is conducive to learning and growth, both for yourself as a new teacher and for your new students.
The following points and guidelines allow you to prepare for good classroom management throughout the year, and should be implemented in those first few days of class. Reflect on your classroom experiences often, even as often as every day in cases where you feel that greater progress could be made. This will allow you to examine how your own behavior and management is impacting the situation and where and how you can improve.
When the First Bell Rings
The first few days of the year are very important, as they so often determine the classroom atmosphere for the rest of the year. Students will try to test their limits with any new teacher to see and learn what is expected of them. You need ensure from day one that you establish and enforce your authority in the classroom as this will earn the respect of the students. Experienced teachers usually start the first day with an activity, usually a fun one without an educational purpose. Aim to show your students from the early days that school is a place where learning should take place, but try to make the message fun.
Experienced teachers often say that effective management lies in the organization, so good planning is essential. Plan course materials that will interest, stimulate and give meaning to your students. Set ground rules that encourage an interactive environment where you and your students can freely communicate to maintain and nurture an environment that is conducive to learning. Here are some helpful tips for the first day:
- Pass out slips to students for them to write down their names. As they are collected, quickly check to make sure no one wrote anything silly and everyone signed. Collect them in order by asking the students to put their slips above the slip of the person seated in front of them and below the slip of the person seated behind them. Teachers should then group the slips by rows and an instant classroom layout is created.
- Distribute books assigned for the course. Unreturned books will be charged to students or teachers, so keep an accurate record by the unique serial number that comes with each book. While distributing, it is a good idea to give students a short task such as # 3 below.
- Hand out information cards for students to fill out. The information card can look something like the example below.
- Distribute a class schedule with assignments listed on it. The schedule should give an overview of the course with an estimated plan. It should provide students with a list of all the assignments for the year, when they are due, and how much time should be spent on each one. This information allows students to work at their own pace. Students will also know what to expect at each stage of the year. It is a good idea to make the first assignment interesting, related to the class but not necessarily based on the prescribed course texts.
- Hold a class discussion to let students know what the class is about and how the learning experience will be related to them outside of the classroom. If you are an elementary teacher, do a basic overview of what to expect during the year.
- Discuss homework topics with students to help them understand what is expected of them.
- Explain the grading system for the class by explaining how the percentage is distributed and how many and what kind of tests will be.
Although it takes time to complete all the tasks mentioned above, doing them will give students a good first impression and set you up as an organized and prepared teacher.
At the end of each class, remember to leave a few minutes for your closing. This time should be used to sum up the day’s work by perhaps giving quick pointers, tidying up and distributing assignments. Avoid teaching right up until the bell rings to signal the end of class. Classes should start and finish on your terms and you should ensure that students know that is the rule.
You will not only help yourself and your chances for success with a smart classroom management plan, but it will also give students an idea of what to expect and make them feel more empowered on their educational paths.