Throughout this blog I am going to provide random thoughts (from lessons learned to ideas I have seen others use) centered around the beginning of the school year. When I was about 10 years old, I remember our neighbor saying, “You have the most random thoughts.” Well 40 years later, and here goes, you get to experience what everyone in my life experiences: the randomness of Aaron.
Back to school is an exciting time full of anticipation and sometimes apprehension because of the unknown. Hopefully these ideas will lead to brainstorming that results in ideas that allow you to kick your year off with excitement and optimism.
1. Take an inventory.
If you haven’t done an inventory, how do you know what you have to teach with? As soon as you get finished reading this life changing blog, please go take an inventory. It will help you tremendously as you plan for the year. Check out my previous blog on Inventory Tips.
2. Develop a curriculum and yearly plan.
Once you know what equipment you have, you can plan your curriculum (assuming you know how frequently you have your students). If you don’t have a sequentially, thoughtfully, planned curriculum, I encourage you to consider going through the process throughout the school year. It is a long process but will be well worth your time.
See my previous post for steps to develop a curriculum. In the meantime, at least lay out a calendar of the entire year so you know what you will teach and when. This will ensure you have a balanced curriculum and allows you to plan lessons around seasons, assemblies, holidays, etc.
3. Integrate cooperative activities early.
As you plan your calendar, consider doing cooperative activities early in the year. Reviewing the rules is a typical beginning of the year activity; however, integrating activities to establish your gymnasium climate works well. Activities should foster cooperation, listening, communicating with more than your voice, and just getting to know each other in the context of physical education. One favorite is “In a Line.” Below is a very basic version of this challenge. There are many other creative ways to use this activity.
- A basic challenge is for students are asked to get in a line alphabetically by their first name.
- Another is to ask students to put their hands behind their backs. Without gestures or using their mouth, they must get in order of their birth month. The line starts with January and ends with December. This activity opens the doors for communication. Specifically, words are not the only way we communicate. Note: this activity will take longer with younger students and they may need help. Also, as with all cooperative activities, a creative set-up for the challenge helps and a debriefing to discuss what is learned is essential.
4. Teach recess activities.
Early in the year, how about teaching recess games during physical education lessons? This is a great time to teach games that students can try given the equipment available. If possible, take the classes onto the playground to discuss recess expectations, safety, and etiquette. Providing this information to the classroom teachers and recess supervisors also helps keep the lines of communication open. Check out this blog for more information on maximizing physical activity during recess.
5. Create a positive, safe culture.
One of my biggest challenges when I was teaching was to start the year creating a learning climate. I wanted to get to the content right away and often neglected this step. I had the rest of the year to teach content, but I didn’t realize it. Now I look at this as “pay me now or pay me later”. Spending the early part of the year establishing protocol, letting students get to know me, and more importantly getting to know each class and each student is SOOOO worth the time. It allows teachers to tailor instruction based on what you know about the class and students. Without this step, I wasn’t teaching students, I was teaching my content. As I have said in other blogs, the students we teach are far more important than the content we teach.
6. Smile…all the time.
We don’t smile enough as teachers. Do you LOVE your job? Let your face show it. Let your colleagues know it. And PLEASE, let your students know it. Smile so much other people wonder what you are up to. Try it for a day. It will make your life so much better.
7. Be mindful of patience.
Those who know me are likely saying, “He’s writing about patience?” I am probably the most impatient person on earth so this is a battle for me. Be patient with your new ideas. Reflect on them and make changes. Be patient with your students as they learn who you are and what your expectations are. Be patient with parents. You all are on the same team. They want what’s best for their kids, just like you do. Be patient with colleagues. Who knows what they are going through. Be patient with administrators. I believe most administrators care about the health and well-being of youth…and teachers. However, believe it or not, at times, that might not be their priority.
8. Learn something new about every student…asap.
This one takes work. Ask them what they enjoy. Find out about their superhero shirt. For high schoolers, find out about their job. The vast majority of humans love talking about themselves. See if I’m wrong. Tell them you love having them in class. Smile…all the time (Have I said that before?). It makes you approachable. This also takes being cognizant of the quiet student. Please don’t let them fall through the cracks. Our ability to teach is entirely dependent on our ability to get to know students and connect.
9. Make a plan for phone calls home.
I love phone calls home, positive phone calls. For this reason, I spent many a planning period early in the year calling every child’s parents to let them know I loved having them in class and telling them something specific I liked about their child. Work? Oh yes. Tedious? At times. Worth it? YES. Many parents have never heard the school say anything positive about their children. This helps build a bridge between you, the child, and home. It also helps establish rapport with parents if you have issues in the future. Oh, and my first year, I wouldn’t be above making one of my first calls home be to the PTA president. Networking!
10. Take care of yourself.
The early part of the year can be hectic. Please don’t neglect yourself. Get some you time, stretch (being on your feet all day can sneak up on you), laugh a lot (even at yourself), and do things you enjoy. Burnout is real. Don’t let it steal your spirit and your passion.
Four of my ideas are content related, the last six are about people. This year, consider making it your goal to focus on people. Parents, colleagues, students. That one tough student who grinds on you. Find out more about her. That one colleague who never smiles. Say, “Hi”, build a “no strings attached, I just want to know you” relationship. Via the school of hard knocks, I have found, and am still learning that life, in the school and out of the school, is so much better when my priority is people. The rest falls in place nicely. Have a great year!