Back-to-School Ideas

” Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ”  – John Dewey.

This post is written for teachers and I think that today, September 8, 2014 – International Literacy Day – is an appropriate day on which to write this post, since schools spearhead the drive for literacy.  In addition, we are at the start of the new 2014 – 2015 teaching cycle.  This is a time for reflection on our teaching, and renewal and improvement of our teaching and learning strategies for the new school year ahead.

Teachers and students are going back to school after the long summer holidays.  The start of the new school year can be very hectic, tiring and stressful for teachers and somewhat overwhelming for many new teachers.  The first term of the school year is extremely important and teachers must maximize their coverage of curriculum content during this term or risk falling behind.  This is why it is so important for teachers to thoroughly  plan and prepare their work during the summer holidays.  Schemes of work and lesson plans must be ready before back-to-school time.  New and inexperienced teachers will need help from their department heads and mentors.

I would recommend that teachers spend the first few days of the new term getting to know their students well.  Do not jump deeply into the curriculum from the first day.  You need to know your students first and you must build positive relationships with them.  Begin by letting them talk to the class about themselves.  You can tell them about yourself and your expectations.

Teachers should establish classroom routines from day one.  These include the creation and propagation of classroom rules and an awareness of the importance of discipline. Discipline is an essential component of any environment which is conducive to academic work.

During this back-to-school period teachers should also focus on motivating their students.  Give them study tips and show them how to develop good study habits such as attentiveness in class, timely completion of all assignments, taking notes, reviewing classwork, doing homework, forming study groups, and seeking help when necessary.  This is also the time to correct the learning loss that many students experience during the long summer holidays.  Some classes or students may also need diagnostic tests to enable you to identify and address curricular deficits which they may be carrying from the previous year, which would prevent them from understanding the new curriculum content.

Set appropriate curricular goals for each class and show the students how to achieve those goals.  Give them frequent feedback on their progress or lack thereof. Approach each class with an open mind, uninfluenced by anything you have heard from other teachers.  Students often behave differently with different teachers, depending on how they perceive each teacher and their relationship with him or her.

Establish positive relationships of trust with parents as early as possible in the first term.  This usually has a positive impact on student performance and conduct. Find out from parents if any students have chronic medical conditions that may require your attention at school or put the student at risk.

Back-to-school time is a time of promise and renewal.  Teachers should recommit themselves to the task and the mission of the school and seek constant improvement in teaching and learning.  Learn from the successes and failures of the previous year.  I hope that each one of you will have a successful and happy 2014 – 2015 school year.

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