I am often asked . . .What is the best advice I can give for teaching?
The first ten days of school is critical! Forget about standards. . . That is right– forget about them for this period of time. . . . building a community of learners is more important. If you don’t do that at the beginning, you will battle all year. NO ONE wants to do that. Then comes the question, how do you do that?
Lester Laminack has a great book Bullying Hurts, Teaching Kindness! Get it! He has listed many mentor books that will help students understand the difference in others–and that it is OKAY!! We are all uniquely designed, one of a kind.
Let the students help with classroom rules, the FEW that work for this particular group. It can’t be the one you used last year. You have a different group this year. Trust me, they are all different. Talk about family. . . they are all different. Get to know them. Talk about pets, favorites, movies, all the quirks of each of the students. . . .laugh. Learn how to play games . . . talk about the importance of learning. What are they interested in? Find out who the book lovers are, the artists, the mathematicians, the friends, the scientists, the technologists, etc. They all will be teachers at some point, helping others. They will all be students at some points, learning from others. Teach how to listen: I heard you say. . . .! Teach them how to look someone in the eye when talking. Teach them what a genuine thank you looks like.
The important skills to be taught: listening, respect, communication, honor, acceptance, problem solving, cooperation, work ethics, sharing.
You can make family shields, posters, diaramas, triaramas, stories, poems, puppets. Get creative. TRIBES is another book of activities and games. . . winning is not important. Playing IS!
This is also a time that I do a GRIEF/DYING unit. . . all students have lost a pet, family member, or friend. . . much can be learned in this emotional time. Life happens to us all. We need to give the students mentor text that will be their rock during a time of loss. I have many, but my favorites are: The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, I Will Always Love YOU, and Nana Upstairs/Nana Downstairs. . . .be on the look out for books that you can use for this important unit.
Teach procedures of putting away work, finding quiet spots to work, how to find a friend to WORK. . . .when to sharpen pencils, how to leave the room, what happens when the bell rings – you are till talking. . . . whatever you need them to learn. Don’t assume they already know the procedures!
Then, and only then, can you dig into the work of learning, the standards, the tests that seem so important. . . Please teach them the love of learning AND that you really do care about them. Students that are loved at home come to us ready to learn. Students that are not loved at home come to us be to be loved and then to learn.
Have a wonderful new year of teaching. . . .you do matter! It is the best profession anyone can have!