Teaching Tuesday: Starting Off the School Year Right

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez and Dusty Sanchez, faculty

male and female students posing for first day of school picture

As we get back into the start of a new school year, there is a great deal going through our minds as educators. There are lingering challenges as the direction of each school and district is in flux and our education system begins to find its new normal. Let us review a few key areas to guide a successful start to our school year.

Getting Organized

When educators take time early in the school year to think through and plan our organizational strategies, not only is time saved over the semester, but also sanity. First, review the district calendar and district curriculum map to think through how you will tackle the grade-level standards through the semester. Next, meet with your grade-level teams to determine your assessment plan and when you will meet regularly for data review.

Then, take an analytical approach to looking at the information you have on each student assigned to our class roster. Use instructional days to plan for special needs, accommodations, challenges and special circumstances. Finally, seek out someone at your district or school to mentor you and provide guidance and support when you need it.

With all these tasks and expectations, it is important to remember taking care of yourself should be a priority. We know if you neglect to take care of yourself you will have a difficult time caring for others.

Prioritizing Self-Care

To help make sense of self-care as an educator, let us break down a few tangible strategies. As an educator you need to have a plan as to how you will make time for yourself. You also need to envision what time for yourself looks like. It could be spending time with family or friends, hobbies, exercise, time in nature or in musical outlets. Your time can be planned into your schedule as a commitment to yourself.

For example, some teachers will do their planning and grading diligently Monday through Friday and reserve Saturday and Sunday for self-care. Other teachers may plan an hour or two every evening for their favorite activities. Remember self-care is not selfish, but rather it is self-preserving.

Building Relationships

Some of you might be starting at a school you have never taught at before and others might be starting a school year where you have learned or taught for many years. Regardless of the setting you are at, it is important to take some efforts in building relationships in the community with families and at the school site with colleagues and students. Working over breaks, like teaching students in summer sessions, can help you become a familiar face in your school district. Beginning of the year activities can help you understand the personalities, individual interests and cultures of each student. This will be helpful for you as you build in efforts to increase engagement in your classroom throughout the school year. For example, showing genuine interest in getting to know family members may occur through home visits, phone calls, classroom meetings, open house classroom events and more.

Regardless of how the new normal looks at your school, veteran and novice teachers need to take time to establish organization, prioritize self-care and build relationships at the start of the school year. Every school year is different, every student is different and every teacher is different. Let us embrace change and be open to modifying the start of this school year as we embark on this 2021-2022 journey.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.