The quality of your preparation for the term ahead can make a real difference, not just on the first day but all through the coming months.
The most obvious thing you will want to do is to prepare your classroom. It is not always possible due to issues like last-minute cleaning by the school’s janitors, renovations or refurbishments, or building policies. However, if possible, it can be of great benefit to have spent time in the room before school starts. It will give you time to really “make it yours.”
I suggest that you gain access to your classroom for a minimum of at least 3 to 4 days before having to officially report for work.
The point here is to give yourself sufficient time to organize, arrange and even decorate your classroom, without feeling pressured. Also, you will want to organize procedures for such things as issuing textbooks and the necessary forms that will need to go home with students on the first day.
It has been my experience that when you officially report for work, your time will be spent at district workshops or building in-service classes. Administrators do not always recognize teachers’ needs to spend time in the physical classroom. You will actually have very little time to devote to your classroom preparations once you are officially “on the clock.”
Preparing the Classroom
Take a seat in your “teacher’s chair.” Look around you. What do you see? That first impression when you sit down for the first time at your desk can provide some important insights. How do you feel about the room? Does it feel comfortable, welcoming, and even friendly? Or is it sterile or forbidding somehow?
Do you have enough light? Is there a window and does it open? What do you see outside the room? How far from the door are you? Will your students go past you as they enter and
exit? Is there enough space? Can you shift your desk or reconfigure the students’ seating in ways that will improve the atmosphere in the room?
Circumstances vary from school to school. Especially in the upper grades, you may not have the classroom exclusively and may be forced to move to other rooms. However, in most American elementary schools, teachers are assigned a classroom for a year at a time or more. Science, industrial arts, and vocational programs often use the same classroom for many years.
Your classroom becomes your “home away from home.” You can put your unique stamp on it. It will subtly reflect your personality and preferences whether you are conscious of your influence on the room or not. Before the school year begins, I urge you to take the opportunity to try to make the space as comfortable and functional for your teaching as you can. After all, you are going to spend almost as many hours here as at your home!
Parents and Teachers
Whenever you get your Class Roster or other information from the administration about the students who will be in your class, you will want to track down their families so that you can be in touch throughout the year. Some schools will supply teachers with contact information for parents; other schools will neglect this but you may be able to request it.
If you cannot obtain current information about the parents, you will want to collect it whenever they come to the campus. Keep a copy of the roster in your desk and write down phone numbers, emails, and physical addresses as you acquire them. If a student’s home situation becomes really puzzling, you can even go on the internet and search for the parents’ contact information.
Once you have the information you need to contact them directly, try to build a relationship with a child’s parents. Knowing more about the child’s home circumstances can provide crucial insights into the student’s achievement levels, classroom behaviors, attendance and general attitude towards school.
Tip: Call Home
This next idea is one I feel is very important – one that I have done since my first year of teaching. I personally call every parent of every child in my class within the first ten days of school. This gives a chance for us both to address any issues or concerns that the parent may have on their mind.
This strategy has always worked well for me and has paid big dividends with respect to parent volunteers for the class! Without fail, I have had parents year after year tell me that I was the only teacher to have ever done this.
Do this! You really gain parental support!
Too often, the only times that parents and teachers ever meet are the day when the child is enrolled at the school (if then), possibly on the first day of school, at parent-teacher conferences which may be called to discuss unpleasant situations, and at “Parents’ Nights.”
There are many ways to get parents more involved in their children’s education – which has to be a good thing, right? Invite parents to volunteer to assist in the classroom, help on field trips, and do presentations to the class about their jobs or interests. Call them up or send them a note when a child has done something outstanding and let them know how proud you are of the child. Do not limit your contact with parents to only negative circumstances.