By Jill Rivera Spears, high school Spanish, Sumner County
The start of the school year can bring excitement, fear, anxiety, and happiness. I felt every one of these emotions on my first day of teaching last year. No matter how much I had planned for that first day, I found myself worrying if I was even capable of teaching high school students.
Now that I am safely on the other side of my first year of teaching, I am happy to share some strategies that helped make the year successful.
Set a Positive Tone
I set a positive tone for my classroom from day one. I stood outside my door every day and greeted every single student that entered my classroom with a smile and a “Good morning.” It’s important that my students know that I want them to be in class and that I am happy to see them. When I greeted my students with a smile, they smiled back and felt a little less nervous about starting the year.
Model Social Skills
I always try to be a good example of appropriate social interaction. Our students today are great multi-taskers and electronic device experts, but I also want my students to develop their personal skills. This is part of the reason I take the time to speak to my students every day when they walk in the class, and when I see them in the hallways.
Balance Structure & Flexibility
Finally, I recommend a good balance of structure and flexibility. High school students are not children and they are not adults. They struggle with this in-between stage constantly. Structure is important to establish a safe and productive learning environment. I did this by creating clear rules and expectations, practicing classroom procedures and ALWAYS following through with my discipline policy. As I learned more about my students, I encouraged them to be creative. I designed lessons that would give them the structure they needed to be successful at the task, but still encouraged creativity and self-expression. I believe that by doing this I established a mutual respect between my students and myself that worked well.
The most important thing I learned in my first year of teaching is that, to my students, I am another adult who has an impact on their lives every day. And for some students, I may be the one adult who inspires them to be the best they can be. I wish all of Tennessee’s first-year teachers a joyful and learning-filled school year!