10 tips for teachers for a great first week (from a veteran teacher).

10 tips for a great first week of school

  1. ¬†Don’t spend the entire first week just talking about rules and routines and regulations. Sure, there are things you absolutely need to do on the first day, but I think it’s SO important to actually get INTO the routine instead of TALK about the routine.
  2. Make positive contact home as quickly as you can. Parents are nervous about their kids, especially if they’ve had behavior struggles in the past. If they know you’re looking for positive things, it starts everyone off on the right foot.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember how hard it was to sit through inservice these last few days? They are struggling, too. Many of your students have just had to majorly change their sleeping routines and are used to having a lot more activity and now suddenly have to sit. Get them up and moving! Be patient and kind.
  4. Smile. Don’t forget to have fun! Do a Mad Libs, or play a quick game. Sing and clap and dance. Have a dance party the last 5 minutes of the day on Friday. If anyone ever told you, “Don’t smile until November,” they’re dead wrong.
  5. Acknowledgments. At the end of the week, circle up your class. Teach them how to do acknowledgments and tell them you’ll be doing them often. The phrase they’ll use is, “I’d like to acknowledge (person’s name) for (something they did/said/etc). Be very clear on what is acceptable and what is not. In my class, they have to be specific (Joe is a good friend is too broad, Joe is a good friend because he makes sure I have someone to sit with is better) and they have to be about their inside not their outside (Joe has cool shoes is not ok). The person they acknowledge says, “Thank you.” Give a lot of wait time. Remind them not to only notice their friends.
  6. Have high expectations and stick to them. Remember not to threaten, but if you say something Love and Logic-y like, “Oh, it sounds like some of us are chatting instead of working and may have to find time in their day to finish this up,” you have to remember to follow through. Remind your students that no matter what, your top priority is kindness, over everything else.
  7. Don’t take away recess. It’s not a privilege that is earned. Recess is a scheduled part of the day that is a much-needed movement break. In rare cases of physical danger to other students, sure, but otherwise-if a student isn’t finishing their work, do your best to get to the bottom of why.
  8. Check-in on your co-workers. See if you can help. Ask for help. Chat about your day. Laugh together. It’s the only way!
  9. Don’t send home homework. Especially if you teach elementary school, don’t send home homework ever if you can help it. You can find the research about this, but for real-just don’t do it. (Sidenote: some teachers don’t have a say in this because of their school districts).
  10. It’s so clich√©, but take care of yourself. Go to bed early. Drink a lot of water. Meal prep ahead of time. Pack snacks and your fave drink for the day. Take a quick walk at lunchtime, if you can. Remember not to make plans for Friday night, you’re going to probably feel like you’ve been run over by a giant semi and then the semi backed up and rolled over you again.

YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!

Trauma.

We make fun of buzz words, I know, but trauma is something that’s really weighing on my mind as we head back to another school year.

Last summer, as a lot of you know, while my husband was traveling overseas with high schoolers, I got a call from a caring and kind family member, who mentioned that my mother-in-law hadn’t answered her phone. This has happened before, and I had just seen her the night before last, and she had a Life Alert, so I wasn’t worried at first.

But an hour later, when I used our spare key to open the door to her house, I had never been so grateful that I had called in emergency help to watch my kids while I went over to check.

My mother-in-law was in her bed, but she wasn’t alive any longer. She had had a massive stroke overnight. I crawled up in bed with her and kissed her face and then got back out and screamed, and, honestly, I haven’t been the same since.

Going back into that house made me so physically ill that I would shake. The first time I went back in, to get something for the funeral home, I came out and vomited in the front lawn. Then, I sat in my car, shaking and crying, and wishing I could call my husband and talk to him, or maybe just be beamed up out of there.

I think of what police officers and firefighters and EMTs and our armed forces see every day and I just close my eyes and feel my heart starting to physically hurt. I think of what therapists and psychiatrists and our school psychologist and guidance counselor hear and see and know.

I think about how I am an adult, with resources-I’ve read books, and talked and written about it, and seen a therapist, and I still have moments. This morning, for example, I woke up and looked over at my still-sleeping husband. There was something about the way he was lying across the bed that reminded me of that scene, and I had an “attack”. I had to put my head between my knees so I could breathe.

And then, I think about what some of our children have seen or lived through. And how they come to school and most of the time we don’t even know. When I was a kid in school, no one ever would have known how big the fights between my parents were, or that I had been called a “cry baby-bitch” the night before, and those things are MILD compared to what some children go through.

I’ve been through training with trauma informed care for education, and, like I said above, I’m glad it’s a “buzz word” and that people are talking about it, but I still feel lost. I still feel like I can’t accomplish enough. I still feel like I’m letting all these kids down.

Do any of you work with children/adults who have experienced trauma? What about when you expect they have, but don’t know? How do I love and care and be there, but keep my own emotions safe in a professional way?

I’d love your ideas, resources, and suggestions!

Thank you to ALL of you out there who help others–you are the true heroes, yo.

XO

Christy