We asked a recent NEA Foundation grant recipient what she does to prepare for the upcoming school year. Check out her tips for quashing those first-day jitters and setting the course for an amazing school year!
By Nancy Kunsman
NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grant recipient
and language arts educator at Gore High School in Gore, Oklahoma
1. Get Your Classroom Ready
Establish routines! The first day can set the tone for the rest of the year. I like to post my general classroom rules in the room and include them on the syllabus to read over with students on the first day of class.
Plan ahead. Prepare ahead. Those days when I was going to make copies before school only to find the copy machine needed servicing…Ugh.
2. Play Games to Help Students Get to Know Each Other
When I taught in a large school district, I was always surprised that students really didn’t know each other. I assumed they were all friends or acquaintances. Now, I create a “get to know each other” activity for the first day.
I learned one during my NEA Foundation professional development grant experience this summer. We stood in a circle and tossed a ball of yarn to each person who would then tell us something we may not know about them. Then, holding on to a section of yarn, he or she tossed the yarn to another person until all had offered a thought. This could be adapted to students offering a favorite food or class or interest.
3. Ask Your Students Questions
Relationships are developed when people are genuine with each other. When I ask a student a question about his or her day, I really want to hear the answer. I also give my students (and parents) a survey at the beginning of the year. Questions are about their favorite subject, sport, or hobbies. I also ask what their favorite English (my discipline) activity was last year. What was their least favorite English activity? What was the last book they read? What are their educational goals? I ask them if they know their grade point average? College or career goals? It is very enlightening and a great way to begin building a relationship and exploring extended learning opportunities.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Keep things in perspective. We want every day to be “angels singing, awe-inspiring,” but they are not going to be. It is often much later that a former student reminds us on social media or through his or her own accomplishments just how inspiring we really were.
5. Seek Out Professional Development Grants and Opportunities
Take advantage of the kinds of professional development that really fit your needs. You know what your needs are or what you lack. Find a workshop or institute that will inspire you. Nothing makes me look forward to going back to school as much as wanting to utilize the new ideas I have learned.
What do you do to prepare for a new school year? Send us your tips and we’ll share on Facebook and Twitter.