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Best Thing I Ever Did to Start My Year on the Right Foot

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Building a Community of Learners

It all starts around the middle of August, every year, whether you are a brand-new teacher entering your first year or a seasoned teacher sliding into your tenth year, it just doesn’t get the new year jitters!!! This is simply because each school year has its unknown challenges along with some great rewarding experiences. What will this new year be like? You ask yourself, “How can I begin the year on the right foot?”

As a veteran teacher, with years under my belt, I discovered some tried and true secrets that I will share with you. The first, most important thing any teacher can do is to build a community environment in your classroom from day one. At the end of August, I send an email video from my classroom, introducing myself as I walk around and point to the different areas of the classroom and the way we will utilize those areas. I also share some of the main highlights of our year: special projects, areas of study, class trips, etc. If you do not have access to your classroom, sending an introductory email welcoming your students can work. I have set up my classroom to make it comfortable with bean bag chairs, small rugs, a couch, a few easy chairs and shelves for materials and of course… our library of books. I want students to like their new home away from home. I try to utilize all spaces in the room for optimum ease of movement and materials are organized for easy access.

Let us discuss the important reasons why it is essential to build this community environment as the foundation of the classroom. According to James Comer, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” The relationships we build with students matter. What we put into it comes back as engagement and performance. The following are some ideas that I have found to be helpful in developing a nurturing, effective classroom environment:

  • Get to know each other game (M & M’s candy game all ages)

  • Develop the classroom rules together with incentives

  • Students decide on team names for their groups

  • Greet each student at your door daily and ask about what is new

  • Play music when they enter the room

  • Positive quotes on the board each day

  • Include a mailbox with the title, “I wish my Teacher Knew” for students to write private notes to you as needed.

  • Use Exit Tickets as one means to determine if any student needs extra help

  • Create a classroom gallery of students’ photos and summary of interests

  • Conduct weekly compliment circles

Have a fantastic start to the school year, and remember, You Got This!

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