January, being the first month of the New Year, is a time of setting resolutions and goals. It is also a time for a fresh start. Everyone has just had a lovely, and hopefully refreshing, two week vacation in which most try very hard to forget everything that happened during the previous semester. If you feel that you had a rough start to the school year, this is the perfect time to implement those much needed changes. Even if you feel that your classroom has been doing very well, January is the perfect time to refresh everyone's memory of how your classroom works.
This first month in the year is unique because it offers us the opportunity to make large-scale changes without upsetting the delicate balance of our classroom. It allows us to make improvements in our classroom management and teaching style without causing student distress. Generally, during the rest of the school year, if you are constantly changing your attitude, style, expectations, and procedures, students never know what to expect of you. They stop trusting in how you behave with them and respect is lost. Little changes are always welcome and keep the classroom from becoming stifling, but constantly changing the "structure" causes confusion and leads to chaos. Below are a few tips to help you take advantage of this "fresh start."
Treat the first day and week back as though it were the first day of school. Take some time to go back over your expectations of student behavior and the procedures you want students to follow. If you did not do that great of a job setting expectations and procedures at the start of the year, this is the perfect time to implement new ones. Your students are in a frame of mind that lends itself to change. Later on in the semester, they will not be so open and willing to receive new expectations and procedures and will fight you every step of the way. So take some time now to implement those changes you have in mind.
Begin your training program again. Train students in your quiet signal and in the other various procedures of your classroom, including entering the classroom, leaving the classroom, turning in homework, working in labs, etc. If students do not follow your expectations during that first week or two after the break, stop what you are doing and have students follow the expectation or procedure correctly. This is vital to refreshing student memories of how you expect your class to behave. If you do not take the time to refresh their memory, you may find that your students steadily increase their misbehavior throughout the spring semester.
Take a look at your attitude towards students the previous semester. Did it encourage student learning and positive behaviors? If it did, then continue that positive and uplifting attitude. If it did not, then reflect on how your attitude has affected both student behavior and student learning. What can you do differently in this new semester? Again, this is the perfect time to make those much needed changes. You still have time to earn student respect. While you may have challenging students, remember that YOUR attitude determines the overall attitude of your class. When you face your class with a positive attitude, they will ultimately reflect that positive attitude back to you. The same goes for a negative attitude.
Remember, revamp your expectations and procedures to improve, or review your expectations and procedures to maintain the balance. Start a training program to get students used to what is expected of them on a daily basis, or continue your training program to maintain positive student behaviors. Put in place a positive attitude that will encourage positive student behavior and learning, or continue the positive attitude you've shown all year to maintain positive student behavior and learning. Take advantage of this one time in the middle of the school year when you can make those large-scale changes with a positive benefit and get a <b><i>fresh start</b></i>!
Article by Emma McDonald. Reprinted with permission from Education World. Original article can be found at http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/columnists/mcdonald/mcdonald006.shtml