Building the Foundation for a Successful School Year
- Grades: 9–12
Week Two of the 2011-2012 school year is already "in the books." I cannot believe how time is flying by so quickly. My students are beginning to transition from summer to school. They are adapting to my teaching style and I'm doing my best to get to know and understand their learning styles. My mind is beginning to focus on ways to make this a successful school year for myself, my students, and my school. The three S's (Self/Students/School) are a work in progress for me. Each year, I strive to improve in these three areas, realizing it will be difficult to achieve perfection. Having a positive mindset and maintaining a balance in these areas will build the foundation for a successful school year.
In order to give my students the 100% they deserve, I must first make sure I am prepared physically and mentally every day. Our lives are bombarded with many distractions that keep us from taking care of ourselves the way we should. I tend to struggle with getting enough exercise. Exercise and nutrition are very important for staying healthy during the school year. Another thing I tend to lack (especially during the school year) is sleep. America is a very sleep-deprived nation. Without adequate sleep, people cannot give 100% to what they do. Start today: Get into a workout routine before you get too far into the school year. Preparing mentally for your day also is important. As hard as it is, I attempt to put all distractions behind me and focus on what I plan to accomplish with my students. One way I prepare mentally is to review my lesson plans for the day. Every day, I attempt to lay out a variety of activities to use - though depending on class discussions and other factors, I may not have time for everything during my 45-minute class period.
Here's a copy of the weekly lesson plan form I use to lay out lesson activities:
Download a PDF of my lesson-planning form.
Making an effort to focus on yourself physically and mentally will build the foundation for a successful school year.
The reason we teach should be because of our students. Preparing our students for their futures should be our main goal as teachers. Having a good attitude and passion for your students' success can be extremely powerful. In his book Teaching Teens & Reaping Results, Alan Sitomer wrote, "I came to understand that if I was sunny and bright and optimistic and hopeful and tenaciously determined to forge on in spite of all my obstacles, my students, as if by osmosis or something, would also become sunny and bright and optimistic and hopeful and tenaciously determined to forge on in spite of all obstacles." Our attitude plays a very important role when spending time with our students. Building relationships with students has the potential to widen your "sphere of influence." One great way I have built relationships with students is by eating lunch with them. I am a lunchroom supervisor during my lunch hour and eat with students every day. Lunchtime is usually when teachers retreat into the lounge, but I encourage you to find a group of students and take time to eat with them once a week. Taking time to listen to them will give you additional things to discuss during class. Students also enjoy seeing me at extracurricular activities. Focusing on your students and making an effort to build relationships will build the foundation for a successful school year.
Improving my school for my students is another thing I focus on as a teacher. I am a member of my school's school-improvement team and curriculum team. Our curriculum team and other faculty members spent a lot of time last year aligning our curriculum to the Common Core Standards. Our school-improvement team attempts to meet monthly to discuss ways we can enhance our students' experience. We also discuss ways we can improve our communication with parents.
Focusing on the school also involves focusing on the community. In 2007, I organized a Veterans Day assembly. Various American Legion members participated and Senator John O. Jones delivered a brief message. My Creative Writing class collected plastic bottles to recycle and used the bottlecaps to create a flag. Each bottlecap symbolized a soldier killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Giving a little time to focus on your school and community will build the foundation for a successful school year.
What are some things that you do to build the foundation for a successful school year at your school?