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Take a moment and think about why you decided to become a teacher. I’ll bet that part of that decision stems from having a teacher along the way who made an incredible lasting impression on you.
So often, teachers are the first people, or even the only people, who really notice what we have to contribute. They are quick to see our unique talents and qualities (many times before we are even aware of them!).
For me, it was my fifth grade teacher who told me I was an incredible writer and my 11th grade English teacher who told my whole class to look to me as an example of a descriptive writer. I’ll never forget how amazing and confident that made me feel. Ultimately, it made me realize that I was going to write in some capacity when I got older. Now here I am scripting out podcast episodes for you every single week!
My point is, as teachers, you have the ability to make your students feel special and feel valued. Although we understand the importance of fostering these relationships, we aren’t taught how to do that. Plus, how do we focus on creating a caring classroom environment at the beginning of the year when we’re also feeling the pressure of so many other things, like jumping into content?
One of the best ways that you can create a sense of community from the beginning is by being very intentional about the activities you choose, especially during that first week of school. It’s important to be strategic about these activities not only to build that community, but also to teach routines inside your classroom so that your students feel a sense of belonging.
Here’s the thing. If we don't give students very specific ways to find connections with each other, and with us, then we're going to spend the rest of the year trying to convince kids that it's important to have relationships with each other, when we haven't taken that time to help them to learn to care about each other from the very beginning.
What you do on that first day, and in that first week, sets the tone for the rest of the year. No pressure, right?! But seriously, please don’t dive straight into the curriculum. Take the time to get kids moving and connecting. Get them to understand that you really care about them. If you can do that, then you’re going to have a fantastic year.
I know you’ve got more than enough on your plate right now, so I’m going to give you five fantastic first weeks of school activities, plus book recommendations that pair well with each activity. These suggestions will help you build community and teach expectations and routines right away, all while reading great literature. I hope these ideas make you feel excited and get your imagination stirring!
Inside this week's show, you'll learn:
I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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