Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Back-To-School Time: Tips From A Teacher

For some, the end of July means that summer break is only halfway over. For others, it means that school starts soon. I'm a teacher. My new school year begins on August 1 and my students return on August 3. It's ridiculous! However, I look forward to meeting my new students and implementing ideas I learned this summer. (Also, I look forward to buying school supplies; it makes me giddy. I have come to terms with the fact that this makes me a nerd.)

When I meet the parents of my students, across all grades, they consistently ask me what their children can do to be successful. Here is my list of things that your child-student can do to be successful:

Be present. This means physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you aren't present, you aren't open to learning. I've had students repeatedly skip my class and then wonder why they don't understand an assignment or a project. How can they participate in classwork, relationships, or careers if they are not present? In my classroom, students don't have their phones out incessantly, and they don't expect the world to stop if they skip out on opportunities. They realize that they are integral parts of the class. I'll admit that I've been mentally absent from my own family, especially while trying to keep up with distressing world events, but my personal goal this new school year is to be present.

Show up ready to work. Arriving to class without books, paper, or writing utensils is a sure-fire way to get on my bad side. When other students are prepared and you are not, you look irresponsible. Of course, accidents happen and things are forgotten, but showing up prepared puts you at an advantage. This also applies to life outside of a high school. When you are prepared for whatever crazy situations you encounter, nothing can get you down. This leads into my next point...

Be prepared for it to hit the fan. At some point, everyone encounters stumbling blocks. My computer may crash as I'm trying to show a video, or my printer may jam and won't print the day's project or test. My kids may wake up sick and I have to call a substitute teacher. Life is unpredictable. Houses burn down. Jobs are lost. Kids get sick. I am not suggesting that you go through my class or life expecting everyone and everything to be an utter disappointment, but do have a contingency plan.  How will you respond to the unexpected events that life hands you? Being prepared for the worst case scenario allows you to be one step ahead of the people who are just flying by the seat of their pants.

Have fun. This is my most important piece of advice. Often, life is too serious. If you watch the news (which I highly encourage you NOT to do), the world is portrayed as a dark and negative place. Politics, terrorism, and the economy are all troubling. When my youngest child was born, I stopped watching the national news. I'd rather spend time with my children than be inundated with the negativity of the news or involved in serious online debates. Having kids has taught me that having fun is, well, fun! In my classroom, we discuss serious topics and tackle serious issues, but we also try to have fun. I want students to enjoy my class and not even realize they are learning! Do not ignore responsibilities or serious issues that you encounter, but each day, try to find something that makes you laugh until you cry and your stomach hurts. If being on social media is causing your eyebrows to constantly furl, log off! Go outside! If life isn't fun, what's the point?

A new school year is filled with many emotions: fear, anticipation, excitement, relief. Every teacher and every parent has different ways of dealing with this journey. Each year, my goal is to prepare every student who walks through my door for whatever life has in store for them and to help them see that they are able to change the world! They just have to realize this power is within themselves and harness it!

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