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Building Relationships and Setting the Tone: Two Big Tips for Back-to-School

The first few weeks of school provide a critical foundation for students, enabling them to begin a successful journey of learning throughout the school year. For many students, beginning a new year of classes can be intimidating and stressful, so as teachers, your approach to these first days can influence students in a positive way.

Each day of our lives is in fact a new beginning: a chance to improve in myriad ways. Focus on the journey, not just on the destination, and that healthy energy will permeate the classroom all year long.

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being." Goethe

Here are two big tips for positive approaches to back-to-school – and the whole school year.

  1. Relationships are the key to education.

    • Great teaching and great learning start with the relationship between teacher and student.
      • Focus on building relationships with every single child in your classroom.
      • Putting aside academics, get to know them as people. Find out what they love most, fear most, enjoy doing, or hope to learn this year.
      • Listen to whatever they have to say.
      • Praise them for whatever they’re doing well.
      • Connect with them as fellow humans whenever and however you can.
    • Try the 3 x 10 strategy: take 3 minutes a day for 10 consecutive days to meet with each student and get to know them better.
      • After the 10 days, you’ll find you’ve developed a bond with each individual.
      • With strong, trusting student-teacher relationships, managing your classroom will be easier.
      • Continue the meetings throughout the school year to deepen and maintain the relationships.
    • Build relationships with your co-workers too!
      • Find a teacher or two you can really count on, and make sure you’re there for them as well when they need you.
      • Lift each other’s spirits with kind support, friendly positivity, and words of wisdom.
      • If you can find a mentor or be a mentor, pursue the opportunity.
      • Connect with office staff and custodians too: learn about their jobs, their talents, their successes, their goals, their struggles, what makes them happy.
      • Appreciate each person you encounter for who they are. Enjoy getting to know those around you.
  2. Use the beginning of school to set the tone for the rest of the year.

    • Whenever possible: keep it simple.
      • Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t try to do too many things at once.
      • Don’t obsess over little setbacks or strive constantly for perfection: be satisfied with doing your best and take each day as it comes. Perfection is an illusion.
      • Be sure to take time to recharge every day.
      • It’s okay to not get everything on your to-do list done in a day.
      • Gently tending to the task in front of you leads to an environment of calm focus and pleasant productivity.
    • Assign classroom jobs
      • Doing these assignments at the beginning of the school year teaches your students responsibility right off the bat.
      • These jobs are great for keeping your classroom clean, neat, and organized!
      • When everyone knows what’s expected of them, things tend to run more smoothly.
      • Maintain a consistent system to keep order in the classroom.
      • Try rotating jobs every week so everyone gets to try all the different available jobs – and if a student hates their job one week, they’ll get a new one next week.
    • Have fun!
      • Make your lessons so interesting, exciting, and engaging that students don’t want to miss your class, and look forward to seeing what you’ll do next.
      • When in doubt: breathe, laugh, and enjoy what you’re doing. Everyone loves seeing someone else excited about something, so if you’re excited, your students will take notice.
      • Think about why you became a teacher in the first place, and focus on the aspects of each subject that you find the most important, meaningful, enjoyable, and interesting. It’s contagious!

Back-to-school means new beginnings and fresh starts, budding relationships and new responsibilities, for you and for each one of your students. Approaching these challenges with positivity, open-mindedness, kindness, and natural enthusiasm will help your students adjust in healthy ways, while laying a solid foundation for the rest of the year.

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