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13 First Day of School Procedures to Make Your Year a Breeze

When you are starting out the school year, there are so many “little” things that you have to do. You have to get your room set up, get to know your students, familiarize yourself with IEPs, and most importantly you have to create procedures. Starting off the school year with students who don’t know you and your style can be trying; that’s why it’s important to teach everyday procedures in your class on the first day of school (and beyond!) so students know what is expected of them (and so you don’t need to use that whole bottle of pain killer in your drawer). While it is important to teach procedures on day one, they must be practiced and reinforced all year! Let’s start at the beginning. 

 1.       Welcome!
Students are literally going to be entering your classroom every single day. Teach students right away how you want them to enter the room. More than teaching it, you should practice it to. When you leave for lunch, recess, music, or another special and come back into the room, what should students do? You don’t have to have different procedure for every little thing students leave for, but you want to have general procedures. Setting this procedure will save you many headaches in the days to come.

2.       Start your engines!
Starting the day is going to happen, well a lot. Having a procedure that includes attendance, lunch count, Pledge of Allegiance, and getting specific supplies ready is a great idea. Having your day start off smooth can set the tone for the rest of the day. 

3.       Line Up!
Just as students are going to be entering your room daily, you are going to be asking them to line up just as often. Making sure you have a procedure so this does not turn into a herd of elephants tromping down the hallway. You can have dots on the floor for students to stand on to help keep students in place with an appropriate amount of space between them.

4.       Move Out!
After students are lined up, they typically have to walk somewhere. Set a procedure for how we walk in the hallway. I find it fun to say something such as, “Let’s walk like we are mice!” In other words, let’s walk quietly. I have also used, “Catch a bubble” accompanied by “Catch a bee.” This helps keeps our mouths quiet and our hands to ourselves.

5.       Clean Up!
We all do projects in our classrooms; it’s a perk of the job! What’s not a perk of the job is going through mountains of markers because caps don’t get put back on or going through hours of precious time cleaning up after your littles. Students should know how to put things back. Have a procedure and an organizational plan to make sure students know where everything goes. This may be having pictures of supplies on different containers to show the proper places to put their tools away.

6.       Great Idea!
Sharing ideas (or stories) is a great way to teach students something. Sometimes when we ask for an idea we get a life story along with it. While it’s great to hear about your students’ experiences, there is a correct time and place. Create procedures for the right time and place to share different ideas. In addition to time and place procedures, you’ll also want to have students raise their hands and wait to be called on. Waiting is usually the hardest part of this.

7.       Help!
When learning new ideas, students are going to have questions. Questions are great! They show us so much but they can be, well, annoying if there is no procedure for asking them. If you don’t want students to come up to your desk, you need to set those boundaries right away. I have a question box (not a literal box). I taped a square on my floor and if a student has a question they go stand in the box.

8.       Book it!
Going to the library was the highlight of my week when I was in school. One of the things that really got me going was when one person ruined it for everyone! Setting a procedure for how to act in the library and what you need to do when you’re in the library is very important for you and the librarian.

9.       Toss it!
I have worked in plenty of schools where gum is allowed. With that, I have scraped a lot of gum off of things. Make sure students know where the trash can is located and emphasize they use it. On top of that, make sure they aren’t getting up and throwing stuff away at a distracting time.

10.   Welcome!...Part 2
It’s so much fun to have guests in our classroom. The students can learn from someone else for a little while and it can break up the day or the week a little bit. Make sure students know what to do when a guest enters the room. You can have a class “host” or “hostess” who is designated to greet them. Meanwhile everyone else should be seated or busy doing something else until the guest speaker is ready to begin.

11.   Fire!
Any drill that you may do during the school year whether that is a fire or tornado drill, there is already a procedure you have to follow. Ensuring that students are on the same page and reviewing those drills before an actual drill happens is so important. A fire or tornado drill can disrupt the whole day. If your students know what to do, they are less likely to go crazy when the buzzer goes off.

12.   Freedom!
Free time doesn’t happen often in many rooms because it can often lead to brawls, crying, and who knows what else. Give students things they can do during free time so they aren’t really running wild. You can even tailor the options to go along with whatever you are currently working on. This procedure will keep your teacher hat on and your referee hat in the closet.

13.   See ya!
The day always comes to an end. We are teaching students how to read yes, but we are also teaching them how to be responsible. Make sure students know to clean up their desks and organize everything so they are ready for the next day.

Setting procedures for the classroom will make your school year so much better. While teaching these procedures, remember Rome was not built in a day. Your students will have to practice these procedures in order to perfect them and you may have to adjust them along the way. That’s what learning is all about: practice. 

Promoting Positive Behavior

Some days are better than others. This applies to teaching as well. As adults, it’s easy for us to understand that we have good days and bad days. However, it is hard to remember that our students are just like us, and they will occasionally have a bad day too. Classroom management can be one of the toughest things to tackle as a teacher, but it is the MOST important. If you can get your management down early on, then the rest of the year runs smoothly. One of the most common behavior management strategies teachers have used is the “card” system. With this system, each student has a green, yellow, and red card by their name hanging somewhere in the room. The color tells them what their behavior is showing and often times there is a consequence that comes with the dreaded “red” card. While this can be effective, is it really the best way? Each year when I was teaching, I liked to start the year off with my number one rule: Stay Positive. Let’s focus on what makes each individual great, not what they need to “work on”. Here are five ways you can promote positive behavior in your classroom without using these little cards.

Tip 1: Project Positive
It is so incredibly easy to say “don’t do that” or to call out the bad behavior. But, one of the best ways to promote positive behavior is to point it out. If Johnny is sitting nicely working on his spelling words and Sally is making spit balls and aiming them at you, should you yell at Sally and give her the attention she wants or should you focus on Johnny? By calling out Sally (or going over to the board and flipping her card to yellow) you are giving her an audience; with at audience, Sally now has a choice to back down or keep going. Most of the time Sally is going to keep right on track and you may end up with a spit ball on you if Sally has good aim. If you chose instead to turn your attention to Johnny and praised him for his positive behavior, Sally may see the attention Johnny is getting and stop what she is doing. Students often times act out because of their friends and if you take away their audience, you take away the thrill.

Tip 2: Objection!
Just like every court case is different in a courtroom, every behavior is different in a classroom. When a jury hears a case, they hear about what the person being tried did yes, but they also hear about the person. Everyone has different circumstances and often times the circumstances can make all the difference. If you know that Suzie’s parents are going through a divorce and she starts yelling at her neighbor, what you do for Suzie might be different than what you do for another student who might just need to learn how to use his/her inside voice. You want to make sure you are individualizing punishment. You don’t need to play favorites, but seeing what the student is doing and considering why a student is doing it is important. The punishment does need to fit the crime the motive should always be taken into consideration.

Tip 3: Practice Makes Perfect
We all know it takes practice to do anything well. One way to bring positive behavior to your classroom is through practicing everyday activities such as lining up or turning in homework. If you practice these procedures the same way every day, it’s easier to manage your students and it’s easy to “reward” them using verbal praise. It is also easier to utilize Tip 1 through this method.

Tip 4: Reward
We all know rewards are nice to get but it can be expensive to buy different prizes or candy. If you want to reward good behavior, you can get a mason jar and put “warm fuzzies” in them. When a student does something kind for someone else, you can give them a “warm fuzzy” these warm fuzzies are simply the little craft puff balls that you can get for a relatively low cost at a dollar store or craft store. Once the jar is full, consider having a class reward like extra recess, or free time to draw. 

Tip 5: Praise!
In our world today, there is a lot of focus on material things. Instead of giving students a material reward, you can send them home with some praise. Put a pin on their bag that says something like “Ask me about my grade on Ms. Smith’s test” or “Ask me about the good choice I made today!”. You can have students bring back the buttons to be reused. Having students bring them back will promote responsibility and give you a chance for them to tell you about their night.

We all love hearing compliments about ourselves, and our students are no different. There are so many things we can do to promote positive behavior while not drawing a lot of attention to the negative behavior. Focusing on the positive instead of the negative can make for a less stressful you and a more positive classroom. 

A Teacher's Guide to Summer

School’s Out!...Now what?
For the last nine months you have been in non-stop work mode. You’ve gone to an endless amount of meetings. You’ve tied shoes. You’ve graded papers...stacks and stacks of papers. You’ve been a parent. You've eaten your lunch in 12 minutes or less each day. You've been appointed to a number of committees (some better than others). Needless to say you’ve worn a lot of hats in the last nine months. The good news is, your break is finally here: summer. You can kick back and take off a few of those hats even if it’s just for a few months.

These are the few months out of the year when teachers can kick back and relax even if it is just a little bit. While we all know there are professional development days, lessons to work on or revamp, and classrooms to redecorate, we don’t have to do that right now. It’s summer and you deserve to relax, and enjoy life hitting the brakes. In order to have a successful relaxing summer, there are some things you are going to need. Here is a list of essentials every teacher needs to have the best summer ever.
1.       Water! There’s nothing better than sitting on the lake, at the beach, or simply at the pool. You can enjoy relaxing and soaking in some much needed vitamin D, going for a dip, or dropping a line and going fishing. Not only can you enjoy spending time on the water, you can also drink as much water as you want knowing full well that you can go to the bathroom whenever you have to go! I know, take a moment and let that soak in.

2.       Fun! Whatever is fun for you: do that. It’s incredibly important to recharge your batteries during these “free” weeks. So often our needs or wants get put on the back burner during the school year. We sacrifice sleep, exercise, and often our sanity. This is why having fun is so important. Everyone, not just teachers, need to remember to take moments to enjoy life.

3.       Friends! School can really take a toll on your social life. When you are constantly working, it’s hard to find time to be with our friends or sometimes even our family. Summer is the perfect time to catch up and reconnect with people you have lost touch with over the school year. Even though teacher friends are vital, it’s important to have friends outside of school to help you separate from school yourself.

4.       Me time! Your whole school year revolves around 25 or so tiny humans. You care about not only their learning but their well-being. Much of your time is spent working on one thing or another for your students so it’s important to find some time for just you during the school year. Do something to “pamper” yourself. This can be golfing, spending time with your significant other, going to a salon for a haircut, or spending some time with a friend you haven’t seen for a while. You have to make time for you!

5.       Laughter! After nine months of some trials (but hopefully more successes!) it is important to let loose and have fun. Laughter really is the best medicine when it comes to many different aspects of life. If we don’t take life too seriously and allow ourselves to laugh, we become infinitely less stressed and we get to enjoy life. The best part about laughter is you can put it with any of the activities above. When you’re by the water you can splash around with your kids and listen to them giggle, when you are having fun you can laugh at things past or things present. Friends you spend time with will share fun stories about their jobs and lives and you can laugh with them as well. Finally, when it’s just a day for you, you can find some time to do something that makes you smile and laugh.

Much like Christmas, summer only comes once a year. It’s a time where we should have fun and kick back. There’s so many enjoyable things to do in the summer and you need to make sure you fit in as many as possible because you have to go back to school fully recharged. You’re only a great teacher if you take care of you, and summer is the perfect time to do that. So, don't feel bad for taking some time for yourself this summer! Enjoy each moment, and relish in the fact that you don't have an endless stack of papers to grade staring back at you!

5 Ways to Keep Students Learning Over the Summer


As a teacher, we all know about the summer learning loss syndrome (and I am talking about the students, not the teachers).  It would be ideal to keep students learning through the summer. How do we do that? Here are 5 ways that might keep your students on the learning path:

·         Get them to a library! 
     Almost every library in America has a summer reading program with incentives and nice librarians!  Taking a quick field-trip to the local library in May to hear about their summer activities is a great place to start.  No money for a field trip?  Bring the librarian to the kids.  Invite the librarian to your classroom to get kids excited.  Kids who may not be avid readers, but don’t have exciting plans over the summer, might see the library as a refuge.  Some libraries even have free snack programs.  Check to see what yours offers.

·         Email your future students. 
     Before school gets out for the summer, collect those new names and emails from last year’s teachers and introduce yourself.  Even if you don’t know which students will be yours, send out emails to the whole grade on a weekly basis with a little tidbit about yourself and co-teachers and a Pinterest project, a scavenger hunt worksheet, or a YouTube tutorial they might want to do that week.  Just that little reminder of school keeps parents and students on track!

·         Do a student challenge. 
     Take time that last week of school to head over to your future-students’ classrooms.  Tell them how excited you are that they are coming to _____ grade!  Give them a list of things you hope they will do over the summer so they will be ready to learn in your classroom. Say you bet they can’t get all of them done – truly make it a challenge to them! A student who’s excited about you will want to work for you! Think of it as a pre-teaching exercise – make sure there’s lots of fun things they want to do on the list like play Frisbee golf or go shopping for the cheapest ice cream at the grocery store.  Be sure to email the parents your list, too.  Recreational activities are still learning opportunities!

·         Enlist the help of local non-profits. 
     Send students home in May with bags of free activities from local non-profits or lists of activities going on at those non-profits.  Many cater to kids whose parents work full-time in the summer, and they will be happy to have your support!  If you convince parents that these activities will allow them more free time, they will be on board, too! The YMCA offers programs.  Many churches offer Bible School opportunities.  Whatever keeps kids engaged, and moving, lessens the summer slide!

·         Encourage kids to volunteer! 
     The best way to learn about the world and make it a better place is by volunteerism.  By actively engaging their minds in something new, they are fighting the summer setback!  Kids can go online to see all their options and find something that fits their tastes.

·         Write code to change the world.
     And for those gamers we all have, send them to the Hour of Code website.  Tell them you want to see the game that will change the world when they show up in your classroom next fall.  Sure, it’s still gaming but with a purpose!  A gamer is only a gamer because they want to beat the challenge.  Maybe you will spark the kid that fixes a world-problem.  That’s what’s great about teaching. As teachers, we aren’t with our students all summer, but we have to know that if we teach them passion for learning, they will continue it, with, or without, us.  These 5 ways to channel summer-learning are a good start.

Top 25 Things Teachers Need to Accomplish this Summer

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So you’re probably thinking to yourself that you don’t want to have to get 25 things done this summer, but you’re a teacher – you know summers are for catch-up! 
Just remember that a good teacher knows life is best when balanced, so work, play, and enjoy!

#25 Drink an umbrella drink!  Nothing makes it feel like summer to a teacher more than an umbrella drink on a patio in the sun for lunch on a weekday!
#24 Schedule those nasty dental and doctor appointments so they are out of the way and not taking you out of the classroom.
#23 Spend a little time on Pinterest.  Pin some new curricular ideas to your boards so when you’re too tired to think in September, there will be no thinking involved.
#22 Make the bulletin boards now!  The last thing you want to be doing the day school starts is making a bulletin board.
#21 Start scouting out cheap supplies.  Think garage sales, dollar stores, and back-to-school sales.
#20 Join teacher clubs to get the best deals – Loft, Joann Fabrics, and Michael’s have discounts just for showing your work badge.
#19 Take classes.  Get those continuing education classes out of the way or take a class on outdoor yoga at your local Y.  Remember what it’s like to be the student.
#18 Make plans with friends. The school year is packed, and this is your chance to see the ones you love.
#17 Make changes to insurance.  There’s never a good time, but getting enough insurance or changing your insurance occasionally can save you some serious teacher dough. 
#16 Read.  As teachers, we know the best thing any student can do is read. We are no different – read books, magazines, or teacher blogs in the sun!
#15 Freshen up your classroom with new seating, rugs, or shelving!  I always think students are more excited when their classroom is bright and shiny.
#14 Binge-watch. The Crown, Call the Midwives, Sherlock (I am on a British TV kick), whatever gives you a smile, should be on your screen.  September will be here before you know it.
#13 Set up your calendar.  Label those in-services and days off right now!  One less thing to do when school starts.
#12 Get organized.  An organized house and an organized classroom make for less chaos and less stress.  There are great organizers out there for everything!  Books, Legos, Crayons, etc.
#11 Write your Congressmen.  If you feel frustration with the educational system, take a few minutes to send an email.  Feel good that you’ve voiced your opinion and exercised your civic rights.
#10 Order that new water bottle to force yourself to keep hydrating on a long day with kids! Personally, I am obsessed with my Hydro Flask. It keeps your drink cold for 24 hours! I love to have water, juice or whatever I am drinking at the moment (no one will know if you decide to fill it up with Diet Coke) in there to carry around as I take my kids to the park, pool and other summer adventures. Plus, how cute is this color?   

#9 Get some fresh air.  It’s hard to find time for those fun outings during the school year.  Do some gardening, check out your local park with your pets, or take a long walk.  It’s good for your mind.
#8 Make it Christmas in July.  Whether you make your Christmas gifts or order online, I like to get that knocked out over the summer so December is a little less crazy.  Whether it’s family members or students, put name tags on in December, and you’re done!
#7 Rest.  The school year gets hectic.  This is your chance to refuel and regroup.  Take those afternoon naps.  They will feel good!
#6 Find some good shoes.  Teaching is a never-sit-down job.  The right shoes can make all the difference, and who doesn’t want ones that look sweet, too? Toms are my ABSOLUTE favorite. They are both comfortable and cute. Plus, this style doesn't wear out too fast. 
#5 Pick out that first-day-of-school outfit!  Starting off the school-year in a well-chosen outfit feels a lot better than showing up as a hot mess on a hot day when the A/C probably won’t work! Lol.
#4 Get some escape games ready for your students. Escape rooms have become a popular way to get kids up and moving, while also working as a team. These games also offer a focus on different teaching standards. Students won't even realize they are learning!

#3 Check out Teachers PayTeachers.  Whether you’re looking to buy, or not, get inspired on the topics you find most difficult to teach!
#2 See your family.  There are moments during the school year that you feel like you see more students than family.  Love on the ones you truly want to be with when you have a little freedom.
#1 Take a vacation, even if it’s a staycation!  You need to be fresh and happy when school resumes!
A happier teacher makes a happier classroom.  These 25 things are sure to start your school-year off right!

While teachers should get some planning in over the summer, they should also make sure to take some time to relax!

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