I used to feel quite anxious about starting to teach classes in the new school year. I learned to prepare for the new school year by taking certain steps. I’d like to share a post I wrote earlier about what I do to help me prepare for that first week of classes.
The first day of school is fast approaching, and I really need to start to think about getting ready for it. I’ve been teaching for a while so there have been many first days, and I’m pleased to say ( actually I’m quite relieved to say ) that I’ve found steps to take that make that first day and that first week a success. That first week is so important because it sets the tone for the rest of the semester.
I’m going to remind myself of what to do to have a successful first day and first week by reviewing the strategies I use for each step. I invite you to review each step with me, so just click on the link I’ve provided in each step.
Step 1- Reduce Stress
Just thinking about the first day of school itself can be stressful, but it needn’t be. Here’s why.
Step 2- Think positively
Think positively. If you have a positive attitude you’ll believe and act as if all students will be successful in your class. If you have a positive attitude there are no losers in your classroom despite what you’ve might have heard. Students will live up to your expectations. Think and act as if students are trouble, believe me they won’t disappoint you. Here’s why.
Step 3- Remember the nine lessons your students taught you about classroom management
Your students will tell you by their behaviour what they like and don’t like all you have to do is ask them. Here’s what my students told me.
Step 4- Create the class rules or agreements collaboratively
Create the classroom agreements together and students are more likely to buy into them. Here’s how I do that and the Slideshare Video I use to review our agreements.
Step 5- Remember respect in the classroom is a two way street
Step 6- Get your students to tell you how they feel about different aspects of school
Remember respect is a two way street going from the teacher to the student and from the student to the teacher. As much as I would like it to be, respect for teachers isn’t always automatic. It must be earned. Here’s what I do.
Step 6- Get students to tell me how they feel about different aspects of school
It’s good to get students to reflect about different aspects of school in and out of the classroom. The information that I get from these questionnaires help me better understand my students and informs my interactions with them. I ask these questions.
Step 7- Realize that a students emotional state will affect a student’s learning and behaviour
Realize that the emotional state of a student can thwart learning. Consider this.
Your mindset in and out of the classroom affects more people than you think. Monique Valcour argues people’s mindsets at work not only impact their coworkers but also impact people’s partners, their family members, their networks and even the larger community. She explains people take work related stress home and it negatively impacts the well being of family members, and it can even affect children’s school performance. Valcour illustrates this point by giving us the following example: Individuals with a distrustful mindset who are very competitive at work and try to get ahead by taking credit, withholding or distorting information, assigning blame, or shifting allegiances undermine the organization’s effectiveness by driving up stress and burnout in others.
I totally agree with Valcour. I’ve worked with educators who’ve had negative mindsets and their negativity did affect me negatively at work and at home. I’m sure you can think of instances when you’ve been affected negatively by a colleagues negative mindset. On the other hand, I’ve worked with educators who’ve had positive mindsets such as the mindsets of openness, trust and generosity. These mindsets affected me positively at work and affected my family positively at home. I’m sure you can think of times when you’ve been affected positively by colleagues’ positive mindsets. I can also think of times when I might of had a less than positive mindset and affected others negatively. I regret those instances but what can I say except I’m not perfect.
I just thought of an example when I changed my mindset about something felt much better about my situation at work and went home happy and much less stressed. Bruce (not his real name) and I taught the same subject for years. When we first started working together, I had hoped we could work together and create materials to use in our classes. I’d worked with a colleague before in just this way and absolutely loved co-creating or creating and sharing lessons, handouts, etc. Unfortunately, Bruce and I didn’t have this type of working relationship. Bruce would simply take the lessons, handouts etc. I’d created and use them but not give me any in return. I thought that was so unfair and developed the mindset that Bruce was exploiting me. I became very stressed by this. I talked about “the Bruce situation” all the time. My husband (bless him) finally told me he didn’t want to hear any more about Bruce- so you get the picture. One day, for some reason, I decided I would just share everything with Bruce that I created and not expect anything in return. I felt so great after I’d made that decision. I don’t know why I felt that way but the stress and resentment was gone. It was so easy once I changed my mindset about “the Bruce situation” from resentment to generosity. I still don’t quite understand it, but being generous brought me well being.
It is astonishing how important the positive mindsets of our coworkers are to our well being. Valcour, citing Adam Grant , shares data from a 20-year longitudinal study of healthy people that reported people with social support from co-workers were two and a half times less likely to die prematurely than individuals who didn’t have positive co-worker support. I’d come to realize over the years that positive support from my colleagues was psychologically beneficial , but I had no idea positive support from colleagues was that important for my physical well being.
Obviously a positive mindset is better for us and everyone around us. My question is how do you recognize your negative mindsets and how do you go about changing them? Any suggestions?
Schools are often hyperkinetic environments. Teachers are busy in the classroom, supervising hallways and lunchrooms, and busy supporting students’ extra curricular activities. When extra curricular activities coincide with exam and report card times, teachers’ lives can be crazy. It seems to me during those extra frenetic times when I was super busy in and out of the classroom, I got to the point where I feel a constant low level of panic and guilt. While at work I felt as if I wasn’t spending enough time with family; while at home I felt I wasn’t spending enough time with work. I’m certain I’m not the only teacher to feel this way. I could hardly wait for the extra crazy times at school to be over. I’d swear the extra crazy times at school affected my brain so I couldn’t function normally. Well, it appears I was correct thinking my brain wasn’t functioning well during those hyperkinetic times during the school year.
Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist, says there’s a newly recognized neurological phenomenon called Attention Deficit Trait that explains the brain’s response to the craziness of a hyerkinetic workplace. When people are trying to deal with more input than they possibly can, they have difficulty setting proprieties, staying organized, and managing time and feel low levels of panic guilt. Gee, I thought I was just overwhelmed and couldn’t cope.
Hallowell suggests we can help control ADTs by getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate exercise. He maintains we need to have a “human moment”- a face-to-face exchange with someone you like every few hours. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it’s not always possible to find the time for that “human moment” at work. I guess I should make the time. Taking the time for a pleasant face-to-face exchange with someone at work when the environment gets more and more crazed would fall into the category of working smarter, not harder. Of course doing things such as breaking large tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks and keeping your desk organized and free from clutter (my greatest challenge) will help control ADT.
I’ve found after I’ve been in hyperkinetic environment for a while, I begin to long for silence and solitude and head. My favourite place to find silence and solitude is along the banks of the Credit River. A walk along the Credit River is so restorative and helps put things into perspective. What do you do when you want to stop the world and get off for an hour or so?
Of course I want my students to be successful. All teachers do. But, I think the Ministry of Education and I have different ideas about what student success means. I don’t think students are successful if they only develop intellectual skills. Earning a high school diploma may be a necessary condition for student success, but it is not a sufficient condition for achieving student success. Students aren’t just one dimensional beings. Students, like everyone else, are multidimensional. We all have an intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimension that needs nurturing. Students need help developing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually (not in a religious sense but in the sense of dealing with alienation, with sense of identity, ) . So Ministry of Education, what are you going to do to help meet the spiritual needs of students?