Every fall, educators walk into classrooms with personal goals, plans, and ideas of how they want the school year to go. Unfortunately, for many, those intentions are often abandoned halfway through that first month. Here are 5 ideas for October; things that will help teachers stick to those plans they began the school year with.
1. Learn one thing about each student
It always takes a while to commit student names to memory, especially if you are working with more than one class or in a school that sees a lot of transition or turn over from year to year. Knowing the names of your students is crucial to relationship building–that should go without saying. But beyond getting those names down, learning one thing about each student in your classroom establishes a familiarity that teachers can build on when they are delivering lessons or when they have to lean on their classroom management strengths. I mentioned in a previous blog the importance of knowing yourself in your role as a teacher; however, knowing your students carries seminal weight as you move through that October month.
2. Get to know the area
Part of the reason why disproportionate opportunities still persist in many school boards––especially those boards with a prevalent inner city representation––is because educators parachute in, do their daily job of teaching curriculum, and parachute out, headed straight towards the highways and their homes, far far away from the location of where they actually teach. You don’t need to live in the area but you should make an attempt to get to know the area you teach in. In October, an idea could be for you to ask your students to teach you about the community. Sharing the space and creating a dynamic where expertise isn’t always seen as filtering from teacher to student in addition to demonstrating a level of interest in their backgrounds works twofold and goes a long way. Another idea for October is taking a walk–spend some time in the community. Gain an understanding of the socio-economic context your students come from. Go beyond the hearsay or what the census says. Get out there and explore.
3. Build classroom community
Many educators struggle to establish relationships that prioritize high academic standards and strong classroom togetherness for a myriad of reasons, but a main one is because they stop explicitly building classroom community after that first day or first week. Of course, “the work” has to come at some point but that doesn’t have to come at the expense of eliminating time and space for relationships. You should strive to build a classroom community in October throughout the entire month. It will pay dividends later on in the school year.
4. Establish class structure
It’s important to keep in mind that every student learns and thrives differently so teachers should look to create a learning environment that caters to the needs of all. This is best done when there are elements of a clear class structure. That could be something as small as starting with the same type of activity at the same time of day or ending class with a similar routine each afternoon. Establishing a class structure in October gives students one less thing that they have to anticipate in their fast-moving, information-inundated lives.
5. Ease Anxiety and Foster Belonging
The previous four ideas sort of construct this last one and that is to create a space that students feel welcomed. The beginning of the school year can be a tense time for a lot of students; there is the social aspect of figuring out how to fit in, the academic aspect of new material, and many many invisible aspects that relate to identity that every young person has to navigate. So be careful with the sarcasm to start the year and venture closer to the side of optimism and positivity when engaged in conversation and teaching. This should be an all year thing. But in October, it is vital to keep this idea in mind.
These 5 ideas for October are aimed at helping teachers maintain an effective classroom and prolong the novelty experience that those first few weeks to the start of the school year provide. Many are eager to get into the swing of things and get straight to the books, but by utilizing these 5 ideas for October, it will make that academic part a lot less difficult.