This post originally appeared on the blog Joy in the Journey.
Picture This: It’s the first day of school and you are standing at the front of the classroom, staring into the faces of a brand new bunch of kids. They are waiting patiently for you to begin the day, to impart knowledge, to encourage and challenge them. You open your mouth and say… what?
The first week of school is crucial for setting the tone in your classroom. You have a new group of students to get to know, to inspire, to invest in. What you say and do in those first few days will leave a lasting impact on those students – so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Here are five things every student needs to hear their first week of school.
1. You are important.
Every student needs to know that they have been planned for and anticipated when they walk in your classroom. They were placed in your class on purpose – they need you and you need them. The first week of school, make sure you greet each student by name as they walk in the door. Put forth the effort to get to know them – memorize details about their families, their hobbies, their preferences. Keep a list if you need to. The students will feel valued – and that will go a long way towards giving them a successful school year.
2. You are listened to.
Make time in every day to give each student the opportunity to speak with you individually – it will take time, but it will be well worth the effort. Students today are searching for a safe place where they can find trusted adults that care enough about them to listen to them. To listen to their hopes, their fears, their commentary on daily life. You could be that person they are looking for.
3. You are responsible for your actions.
While students often clamor for freedom, they need consistent expectations and follow-through from their teachers. We need to set the bar high and hold our students accountable for their behavior. They need to learn now that choices have consequences. We do them no favors by “letting them slide” or “turning a blind eye” when they’ve done wrong. The successful teacher shows her students that she cares for them too much to let them slide. Each student can be a role model – we just need to give them the chance to own their actions.
4. Anything worth doing takes effort.
Laziness is a growing epidemic in our culture. We want shortcuts. We want immediate results. But in education (and honestly, in all of life), students need to learn that anything worth doing is worth doing well – and that requires effort. Give students the opportunity to work hard and then reward them for a job well-done.
In my classroom, I had a huge sign above the whiteboard that said, “YET.” Whenever a student would feel defeated and say, “I don’t get it” or “I don’t know” I would point to the sign and say, “You don’t get it…YET.” It spoke volumes to them – It showed them that I believed in their potential to learn and master any topic. By the end of the second week, all I had to do was point to the sign and they would nod their head, understanding my point that they would come to grasp the concept if they put forth the effort.
5. We all make mistakes. Each day is fresh.
With all of the talk of responsibility and accountability, there also needs to be a discussion of grace. Truth: we all make mistakes. We need to own up to our mistakes and apologize, if necessary. But we also must remember that each day is a fresh start. Our students need to feel that they’re given the option of having a great day every time they enter your classroom door. As the teacher, you need to communicate the fact that the mistakes of yesterday may have consequences; it doesn’t mean that they can’t make better choices today.
- Your students were placed in your classroom for a reason.
- They aren’t there by accident.
- You have a job to do.
- Communicating these 5 things will help to set the tone for a successful year.
- Tell them to your class the first week of school.
- And every week after that too.
If you’d like a copy of these graphics (plus a printer-friendly copy) to hang in your classroom, you can download them for FREE from my TpT store.
Thanks for joining me, friends! I hope this post has been helpful for you as you prepare to greet your new group of students.
Do you have anything else you’d add? What are some of the core values you want to communicate to your students each year?
Jessica Lawler is a passionate educator and creator of teacher resources. As a fifth-grade-teacher-turned-