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First impressions on the first day of school: How to start the year off right

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As students enjoy the last few weeks of Summer vacation, many teachers are already busy preparing for the new school year. Teachers know that what happens during the first few days of school can set the tone of the next ten months. Everyone knows that first impressions are important, and a student’s impression of his new teacher is no different. How does the teacher respond to disruptions in the classroom? How does the teacher react during a crisis? How well does the teacher listen to and respond to students’ questions? Students are getting subtle (and not so subtle) cues from the teacher all day long – and these cues are shaping their opinion of their teacher and helping to form how they, in turn, will behave in the classroom all year long.

How can a teacher ensure that she’s giving her students a great first impression? How can she make these first few days a success? The key is to be prepared. Over plan for the first few days of school to make sure students have plenty to do. This can be a combination of genuine lessons and “busy work” (crossword puzzles, word-searches, coloring pages, etc.). Have a classroom management plan in place right from the beginning. Teach students how you expect them to behave in the classroom, from entering the room quietly to raising their hand during class discussions. Set rules and consequences so students are well informed and can be confident that they are making the right decisions.

It is much easier to “ease up” as the year progresses than it is to become stricter. Strict doesn’t necessarily mean yelling at students to make them behave. Most teachers will confirm that this rarely works anyway. Instead, teachers should opt for a consistent approach to classroom management. This approach should be calm, confident, even-tempered, and fair. Set your rules and stick to them. Don’t let students see you lose your cool. If you need a moment to collect your thoughts or deal with an issue, assign students a worksheet or a few minutes of silent or shared reading.

It is exciting to enter a classroom at the beginning of a new school year and think of all the learning and all the excitement that will take place over the next few months. Being prepared and making a good first impression will get the year started off right.

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