Students fear it. Teachers dread it. Let’s face it: nobody looks forward to going back to school after the holidays. Classrooms are filled with cranky, overstimulated students who seem to have forgotten the most basic tenets of learning — and that can be a big demotivator for teachers.
But we think that’s the wrong way to look at it. The first day back can be a chore, sure, but it’s also an opportunity. Here’s how you can take advantage of it.
Reset Expectations for Students
Despite your best efforts, some of your carefully-selected classroom guidelines probably ended up falling by the wayside over the course of the last few months. It happens gradually: at first, you insist that every student raise their hand before speaking out loud. But little by little, you make small exceptions to the rule, and by the end of the semester your classroom is a talking free-for-all.
The first day back in school is the perfect opportunity to set things straight. From the outset, make it clear to your students that you won’t be tolerating calling out in the new year. It’s important to do this before students’ muscle memories set back in so don’t give them a chance to fall back into their old habits.
Be Extra-Clear With Your Students
Because of allowances that were made during the first half of the year, your students might not be thrilled about having to follow what they perceive as a new set of rules. To nip any discontent in the bud, make sure to acknowledge the fact that you let some misbehavior slide in the past, but that you won’t be making any exceptions anymore. Don’t forget to run through the consequences of disobeying classroom rules, so that they know exactly what to expect!
Start Out With Some Fun
Just because the first day back is an ideal time to reset expectations doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it! One way to get your students excited for the new semester is to run an investment lesson. While less rigorous than our usual curriculum, investment lessons allow teachers to generate anticipation about the upcoming material by, say, staging a mini in-class production of Hamlet — starring the school principal.