I have been teaching since 1994 in Texas, Germany, Greece, and many other places worldwide. This means I’ve often met new learners of various ages (from 2 to 80 years-old) in various classroom settings and situations. I don’t think I will ever get comfortable with meeting new learners, because each year my learners come with new challenges and personalities. About 5 years ago, I fooled myself into believing I was a pro with facing new learners. I was in Germany, teaching about 20 children between the ages of six- to seven-years-old who spoke and understood very little English. On the first day, I received a less than warm welcome. The children ran around the classroom flying paper airplanes. They climbed the walls, literally, because there were apparatus where the mats should be hanging, not the children. I cried that day when I went home and promised myself the week would get better. It did, because of many of the survival tips I am sharing with you below. The trick is to remember as a teacher we should prepare ourselves for meeting new learners and anticipate challenges. As a teacher, I know I will make an impression on my learners; whether, this is a positive or negative impression is up to me. I like to start on a positive note and ensure I walk in my class everyday with a purpose in mind, to positively impact my students. I hope the following tips and resources will help you with your first month of school and beyond. Feel free to click on the presentation below and download a free pdf to pass to your teachers or others you think it might be helpful to!
My Survival Tips
1. Walk in motivated!– you will have the rest of the year to feel stressed so walk in believing you can and will make a positive impact on your learners. During that first week, start creating routines and habits. Before you meet your learners make sure you got enough sleep, ate a good breakfast, and gave yourself a pep talk. Read more tips for avoiding burn-out as suggested by other teachers.
2. Engage parents– During the first month, make it a point to contact every parent with positive messages about their children before you have to contact them about negative behavior. Also, get them on board with the technology you want to use by hosting a parent workshop. The resources below will provide you with more ideas.
- Getting Parents Onboard with Technology bookmarks
- Tips for Engaging Parents this School Year
- Larry Ferlazzo also has great tips for engaging parents
3. Set-up your classroom to support the various learning styles- Setting up learning stations has been the most helpful in managing student behavior. This presentation will provide you with tips, The How To of Learning Stations. The resources in this blog post are also helpful.
4. Encourage learners to take part in creating their own learning environments
- Have them graffiti on butcher paper on the wall
- Have them post their inspirational quotes on the wall
- Have them design the class website, wiki, or blog
5. Be preventative and proactive when it comes to managing your classroom– Come up with rules together. Add the rules to a student code of conduct that you and the student sign. The code should be phrased with I will statements learners can understand. This post has many ideas, The Teacher’s Survival Kit for Classroom Management.
6. Unbind yourself from course books– You know what your students need to learn so feel free to pick and choose what will work in the book and try having students be the main content creators of materials. This post has many ideas, Bring Your Textbook to Life: 15+ Tips & Resources.
7. Create your teacher survival kit– Every teacher needs a cart, bag, and/or shelf of tools and tricks to pull out in case a lesson doesn’t go well, the learners are restless, there’s a fire drill or other event that takes most of the class time, or the technology doesn’t work. In my kit, I include a timer, ball, Playdoh, flash cards, board games, and more. Check out my Teacher Survival Kit shelf for ideas.
8. Build relationships– Classrooms are communities. We need to take time to implement community building tasks in order for a classroom to be a successful community that learns, collaborates, and works together. Our students must spend countless hours together daily with the goal of learning as much as they can. Students need to build relationships with their peers in order to prevent issues with bullying and ensure the support of one another in succeeding in learning goals. These can include team building activities, icebreakers, getting-to-know you activities, relationship building activities, and collaborative tasks that teach students how to respect each other and build a community of trust. You can find a list of icebreakers for teens and adults here and activities for kids here.
9. Integrate technology effectively- Pedagogy first then technology. When we use technology it should support students ownership of learning, allow students to be content creators,engage and motivate students to be continuous learners, and support effective communication, especially with peers worldwide. Find 14+ Tech Integration Tips & Resources here including Kelly Tenkely’s Digital Blooms.
10. Have fun– Each day make it a point to enjoy what you do. You will feel better about being a teacher, it’s much healthier, and your students will be motivated to continue learning.
These are more resources to help you:
- Back to School: 50+ Resources
- 2012 Survival Tips for Back to School
- Survival Tips for the 1st Week of School webinar recording and resources
- The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators– Free ebook and goals to inspire you throughout the teaching year!
- Goal-Setting with English Language Learners
- LiveBinder of Resources
- Great list of resources for New Teachers by Shamblesguru
- What you wish you knew before you became a teacher (Slideshare presentation)
- Top 12 New School Year Resolutions for Teachers
- Tips for Beginning the School Year Right
- Survival Tips for Teaching Kids English
- EFL Teacher’s Kit for Surviving Kids– In this post, I explore more tips for working with young learners.
- What Works: Cooperation vs. Competition– In this post, I explore how cooperative learning improved the culture and behavior of my young learners.
- Parent Release Form for Publishing Student Work Online
- Parent Release Form for Publishing Student Work Online PDF
- A Post About FirstsFirst impressions and first activities on the first day of the semester by Cecilia Lemos
- Dear Me (On the Eve of My First Year Teaching) by Matthew Ray
- First Days by Pamela Moran
- Dear Teacher Who is Afraid by JessieVaz12
- First Day of A New School Year by Sylvia Ellison
- Need Energy by Eva Buyuksimkesyan
- Getting to Know Each Other: Strategies and Activities for Beginning a New School Year
- Back to School and Ready to Go by Angela Maiers
- The Start of a New Year by Vicky Davis, The Cool Cat Teacher
- First Day of School: Anastasis Academy by Kelly Tenkely
Try any of these ideas and let us know how your first month went.
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What are your tips for surviving the first day, weeks, and/ or month of school?