The great thing about the beginning of a new school year is that it’s a clean slate. All the old challenges from the previous year have faded into the past, and you’ve got a whole classroom of fresh new faces expecting you to bring your best. You’ve decorated your door and your PBIS bulletin board, and have some getting-to-know-you activities planned for the first day. It’s the perfect time to set the tone for a positive school year.
What Does a Positive School Year Look Like?
This is your first and best opportunity to set the tone for the entirety of the school year. It’s extremely important to get the tone right on the first day if you expect a positive school year. You will never have another opportunity to start fresh with this class of eager learners.
How do you envision the upcoming school year? A positive school year begins on the first day. Beginning with a positive outlook will help your students to feel immediately comfortable and ease their first-day jitters.
Do you see your class learning and growing as a group? Will your struggling students feel support, not only from you but also from their classmates? Do you see bright and curious minds and unique gifts and talents? If this is the vision you have for your classroom, share it with your students. Let them know that it’s possible!
How to Set the Tone for a Positive School Year
Because your students look to you to lead them, the tone you establish on the first day will cement the rest of the year. But how do you communicate your vision with your students?
Greet your students with a smile and positive energy
This is the first time you will meet most of the students in your class. Greet them with a smile and a positive attitude to help put their jitters to rest. Bonus: a smile and positive vibes will calm YOUR jitters, too!
Outline your expectations
Let your students know what you expect from them in terms of effort and behavior. You will be gently correcting them numerous times based on these expectations, so be very clear. This is where a chart or PBIS bulletin board spelling out your class rules will be helpful.
Give your students an outlet for expression
Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist.” Allow your students to express themselves in ways that are comfortable for them. This could mean art, journaling, music, or any other means of creative expression.
Connect with each student individually
Find out who your students are as individuals. This can be as simple as a one-on-one conversation about any topic they choose. Take the time to praise them for things they do well. Let them know they can come to you for help solving a problem or to celebrate with them (reference Mr. Barry White, Jr.’s handshakes again).
Just as you hold your class responsible for their behavior, hold yourself accountable for your own. Let them know you are invested in their success and build positive relationships with your students. Ask them for feedback. You never know what kind of helpful ideas they will come up with.
Your students deserve a teacher who is in control of their emotions at all times. Calmness creates calmness. Even when you’re teaching a complicated lesson, your calm demeanor will help your students push forward toward learning.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Your students will learn that you are someone they can trust.
Using PBIS for a Positive School Year
At the end of that all-important first day, you want your students to go home excited to be a part of your class. Behavioral expectations established on the first day will set the tone for the entire year.
Schools using PBIS will have a way to measure outcomes from the first day of class to the last. Because PBIS provides a framework to promote positive behavior, it can be invaluable when creating a positive tone for the year. Your first day of class is the perfect time to communicate expectations to your students. Using PBIS Rewards can help to make recognition of positive behaviors easy.
Students who carry home positive feelings about their first day and their teacher are students who will have a positive school year. Start the first day on a positive note, and watch that positivity grow as the year progresses.