Back to School: First Week Advice for Educators

hat can you do to keep your students enthusiasm

Do you remember your first day of high school? You were beyond excited to wear your back to school clothes, try out your new school supplies, meet your teachers, catch up with friends and find out what lunch you had. You were enthusiastic about going back to school! But the first day came, and quickly it felt like ground hog’s day with virtually every teacher going over the class expectations and discussing the syllabus. By the end of the day, you were utterly exhausted and completely bored. It doesn’t have to be that way! Opening day of school should be filled with a contagious, positive energy that make students want to see what happens next; they should leave eager about coming back tomorrow! The best teachers know this—and they have made the shift. So, what can you do to keep your students’ enthusiasm?

First Day of School Selfies: Set up a selfie station with props and join in the fun. Students are dying to snapchat or Instagram their first day of school, so why not let them? This one simple activity sets the stage for fun—and you should be part of it!

Ice-Breakers: During the first week of school, have students participate in 1-2 ice-breaker activities that are fun, but also allow students and teacher to get to know one-another. Trust me, you have time for these! The time spent on building these relationships will allow you to  work together as a team. You will be able to transition from one activity to another seamlessly and students will willingly participate with one another.

Student Voices: Instead of distributing the classroom rules and classroom norms, have students participate in the creation of these set norms and classroom conduct and procedures. Students are more likely to adhere to the rules and follow procedures if they have participated in the creation of them. Allow them to present them in fun ways.

Be Innovative: Try something new, or give something old a new twist. You may have a tried and true assignment that is perfect for your curriculum, but the medium is out-dated. Give students options on how to complete the assignment with suggestions on how to make it unique and more relevant.  Take the time to research new technology apps that can engage students; it will be time well spent!

Be Forgiving: I am a firm believer in the idea that people will do what you allow them to do, BUT If you are stickler on everything, you will likely lose the student’s desire to want to be in your class. Students may arrive a few seconds late the first few days. Give them a little wiggle room to get acclimated.  People forget things—we are human. Give students an extra day or two to hand in the signed syllabus or summer packet. They may never recover from that zero!

Inappropriate Behavior Happens: Students may not be aware, maybe they are nervous. Address the behavior and let them start over.  After all, the goal of discipline is to change the inappropriate behavior not to humiliate the student.

Remember Your “Why”: Why did you want to become a teacher? If you are like me, you wanted to help students learn and grow to be the best possible person that they can be. Create the environment that supports that mission. When you put the best interest of the student first, you can’t go wrong!

Have Fun: Students know who the imposters are– and who the teachers are that love what they do. Enjoy the total experience of teaching, not just the subject. Laugh with your students, participate in fun challenges alongside of them and be genuine; they feel it! 

Decide that you are going to find the good in each student this year: Making connections and building a positive relationship is easy with most of our students, but can be a big challenge with some of our more disaffected students. Take the time to find out what inspires, motivates or brings joy to those, they are the ones who need it the most.

Have a great year; it’s all about your attitude! You are responsible for the type of experience that students will have in your classroom, make them great!

Michele Hill is in her 24th year as an educator, student first, curriculum second. Michele is a national presenter and author of educational topics appearing in ASCD InService, ASCD Educational Leadership, MCGraw-Hill The Art of Teaching and NASSP Principal Leadership. You can follow Michele on twitter @HillMrispo or