The start of a new year is a reset button for most people; a clean slate, a chance to start over. We take this approach in our personal lives; we workout, we eat better, we do what we can to make positive changes in our lives. As educators, hitting the reset button in the classroom is just as important. The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to evaluate our teaching practices, classroom routines, and relationships with our students.
Start with reflection
In order to reset, take some time to reflect on what teaching strategies were successful the first half of the school year. Did you teach a lesson where the students were so engaged that you could feel the excitement about learning tingling in the air? What made that lesson so successful? Now ask yourself, how do you plan to create more of these learning experiences in 2017?
Alternatively, reflect on a lesson or moment of your day in which you handled a situation a little less gracefully than you care to admit. What are you taking away from that less-than-ideal situation to grow as an educator? Application of these reflections is crucial to making improvements and continuing to grow as an educator.
Take your reflections to your class. Allow your students to reflect on the first half of the year. Upon returning from winter break, discuss what went really well in the first half of the year and where there is some room to grow. Sitting in a circle allows for all students to feel included and develops classroom community. Allow all students to participate, and truly take the students suggestions, concerns, and comments to heart. Together, develop a classroom plan for success for the remainder of the year. This meeting would be a great time to address any areas of need that you notice, such as hallway behavior, homework completion, etc. Make the plan visible, and revisit it often.
The first week of the school year in the fall is often spent getting to know your students, facilitating team building activities, and building classroom community. Can you pinpoint the last time you took time to continue to build and form those positive relationships? In 2017, make student relationships a priority. This includes student-to-student relationships and student-to-teacher relationships. Some ideas:
- Try weaving class meetings into your daily routine.
- Spend time each day giving positive shoutouts, suggestions, concerns, and “getting to know you” questions to different students.
- Hold discussions where students can see everyone and have an active voice in the classroom. This is critical and will truly impact your class dynamic.
New Year, New Goals
Head into the new school year ready to try something new. Maybe it’s a new app you’ve been wanting to try, maybe you want to incorporate a MakerSpace in your classroom, or maybe creating a more student-centered environment is your goal. Whatever it may be, set a goal. If you’re not quite sure what your goal should be, take the time to continue your reflection on what went well and what didn’t during the first half of the year and address your areas of need. Write your goal down, share it with a colleague, or put a deadline in your planner, but hold yourself accountable. When we challenge ourselves, we grow, and as we grow, we become better.
Incorporate goal-setting into your classroom with your students. Discuss the purpose of goal-setting, and how to set attainable goals. Then, allow your students to set and work towards their goals. Whether you choose to set daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly goals depends on your classroom environment, but encourage reflection and talk about their goals often. Be sure to celebrate student’s achievements before setting new goals!