What Your Students Expect from You
A week or two before school starts, students start gearing up for the new year. They usually get their new class schedules in the mail or go to their school for a meet-the-teacher event. They've probably been shopping for new school clothes and supplies. When the first day arrives, most will come prepared with clean notebooks, fresh boxes of crayons, and unsharpened pencils.
Something else happens at this same time: Students get excited. Many, if not most, students come back to school with a new attitude and with definite expectations of doing well. As a teacher, you will also find that the start of the school year is an exciting time. You will have the opportunity to get to know a whole new group of students and to teach them important information and life skills.
Students Want to Succeed
All people want to succeed, even if they fear success. Many students realize that they could have done a better job in their last school year. The new school year is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf and start fresh.
With this in mind, students often approach the first school day the same way that many people approach the new year. While they might not consciously write down a list of resolutions, they have them all the same. As a teacher, your challenge will be to see how long you can keep this excitement brewing. This is not to say that you can ever hope to replace video games or television, but there are ways to make your classroom environment fun and engaging.
Students Are as Nervous as You
Remember the last time you were put in a new classroom with a teacher you had never met? Even if you had a friend or two in the class, there was probably an element of nervousness in the air. Many of your students will feel the same. Fear of the unknown is a normal part of human nature. You and your class are unknown elements to the students before they arrive on that first day.
Students will show their nervousness in a variety of ways. Most of them will probably be very quiet. Even if you try to make a joke, you might not get a lot of response. It will take some coaxing to get students out of their shells. Learning students' names quickly can help them feel more welcome and relaxed.
While students might feel nervous on the first day, this nervousness will quickly disappear if you make them feel safe, welcome, and engaged. Remember, you set the tone for your class.
A couple of students might come into your class on the first day with a chip on their shoulders. This too is a sign of nervousness. These students don't feel comfortable, so they become defensive. Just knowing this can help you make better decisions on how to react to a student's misbehavior. This does not mean that this attitude is acceptable, but it is not necessarily an indication of future behavioral problems.
While behavior management will be covered in great detail later, know that the biggest tool you have in your arsenal at this point is your sense of humor.
Students Wait to See How You Act
Before they jump in and begin misbehaving, most students wait and see what you are like as a teacher. Their judgment is very quick and often very accurate. Students are experts at telling which teachers are pushovers and which are not. Therefore, it is important to make a good first impression. Remember, it is much easier to relax rules at some later date than to create new rules as the year goes on.
The key is to start strict, much stricter than you normally would. This does not mean that you cannot have a sense of humor. In fact, a sense of humor is one of the most important ingredients to good classroom management. However, it does mean that you have rules and that you enforce them fairly and consistently.
Students Test the Water
You have made a good impression, and students feel that you will be strict but fair. Yet many students will still test you. Like children going through their terrible twos, they want to see just how far they can push things before they are pushed back.
Should I tell students that I am new to teaching?
The best way to handle this issue is to play up your previous experience, even if it was just interning. Emphasize that you are new to the school, and avoid saying that this is your first full-time position.
Misbehavior at this early stage of the school year starts small. The way you deal with these small disturbances will determine the extent of larger misbehaviors later in the year. If you ignore the behavior, it will grow until you are forced to deal with it. By acting now, you will save yourself a lot of time and headaches later.
If you have a student on the first day who is really misbehaving, it is perfectly acceptable to send him to the office. This will definitely make an impression on your other students. It is better to let students see that you know what they are doing and that you have higher expectations for them. You will get huge results and rewards in the long run.