By Haley Sheahan
Alumna, College of Education
If you’ve strolled into a Walmart recently, the first thing to catch your eye was probably the hordes of school supplies stacked onto shelves and into bins right inside the entrance.
Between all the folders, binders, pencil, lunchboxes—and don’t forget about those composition notebooks—this store is basically screaming at you:
IT’S TIME TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL!
Now, you’re a teacher, so this statement means something more along the lines of: “It’s time to deal with new kids, new parents, new curriculum and new rules. Yippee!”
But before your thoughts go down this path, think about how exciting a new school year really is. Instead of feeling disheartened, remember that it also means new decorations, new activities, new games and, yes, new kiddos with whom you can hang out every day and hopefully share your passion of learning.
Embrace the New Year
I think of a new school year as a new book I’m about to read. I may be familiar with this genre of book, or maybe I have read this author before, but I don’t have any idea how the book is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get to that part, but I do know that I picked the book, so hopefully I chose something that I know I’ll like.
Every year of teaching is different. You may be teaching the same subject for the fourth year in a row, but I can still guarantee this year will be a bit different from the last. Your students will always bring their own individuality into the classroom, making that classroom uniquely “theirs” for that year.
All you can do is plan how you hope it will go.
Start on Week One
To help ensure you have a successful year, find fun new ways to interact with your students, most of which can be done that very first week of school, to help create a positive classroom environment.
One first week activity I like to do with my students is to have them create Facebook profiles (paper versions) that give me a little insight into who they are and what they like. I’ve also had students write goals for themselves for the end of the semester and/or the end of the year, that I keep and pass back to them at those times.
With my high school students, I encourage each class to make a “contract” for that class. It lists the rules that everyone, including students and teacher, should follow. Then everyone signs it, and I post it in the room. Students are more willing to follow rules when I can remind them that they made them.
Whatever you choose to do, use this time to establish a healthy classroom, where learning is a priority and students respect one another.
A new school year is essentially like a fresh start. Every time you told yourself last year, “Oh, I wish I had done that instead,” well, guess what? You get to do it that other way this time.
Most professions don’t give you so many redo’s or chances to switch things up and get creative. Take advantage of the fact that as teachers we get to do this every year—and have some fun with it!
More about Haley:
Haley Sheahan is currently a math teacher at Great Hearts Academy in Phoenix. She also taught for about two years at Centennial High School prior to her current position. She graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Science in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics. She was fortunate enough to work closely with the GCU College of Education as well as the Arizona Future Educators Association during her college years, helping to mentor aspiring future teachers, run conferences and speak at events to other students about education. Haley believes in the importance of educating our future generations, and she has a passion for sharing her love of math with other students.