Start setting goals for 2014 for your students, Brian P. Gatens says
Tips for School & District Administrators

Teachers: How to Start the New Year Strong

By Brian Gatens

Welcome back from what I hope was a great December holiday vacation. I hope you had the opportunity to rest and recharge for the new year. Let’s get it off to a great start.

Setting goals for the second half

It seems as if everyone focuses on setting a New Year’s resolution. You can connect this idea with your students by having them set individual and classwide goals. Individual goals enable students to practice the skill of self-improvement, while broader goals help develop their understanding of their interdependence on each other.

One precaution about classwide goals: Make sure you arrange them so a single student cannot scuttle the success of all. It’s also a nice opportunity to share some personal goals for the year and to encourage the children to help hold you to them.

Waking up the class memory

In my teaching days, my colleagues and I would always chuckle at how many students forgot their class schedules and locker combinations during an extended vacation. On that same note, you should begin the new year by reminding the class about your expectations such as homework due dates, test-preparation methods, and behavior standards.

A little extra reminder, especially after many of the children have been most likely relaxing for almost two weeks, never hurts. You can incorporate this into a cooperative learning activity, letting the students collaborate on expectations and offer some of their own.

Noticing the new

Students return with new clothes and perhaps a new haircut. Some might even look a little older to you after a long break. Take a moment to comment on all the changes you see.

Everyone likes to be recognized in a positive way, and having it come from a teacher means a lot to a student. Just be certain to take into account the feelings of students who are going through a tough time financially. Good teaching is often a balancing act, especially at times like this.

Going positive

Whether you realize it or not, your students will take on your demeanor. Work hard on starting the year off with positive comments, suggestions, and activities for the students. They will appreciate the support and will be grateful that you aren’t bemoaning the end of your vacation.

I sometimes wonder how students react internally when they hear teachers speak of the need for a break from school — that is, a break from them. Sometimes the most off-handed comments, meant completely in jest or in good humor, send mixed messages to children.

Be excited and happy to see your students. This is especially important to children whose only source of acceptance and caring is your classroom.

It’s going to be a great year!

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