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Back to school: It’s what’s up front that counts!

4 min read

Voice of the Educator

School started this week. Excitement reigns — or maybe not.

Schools and classrooms are a beehive of activity. Books are distributed. Bulletin boards are decorated. Rules are posted. Phones are ringing. Texting and tweeting are rampant. Tears and laughter are shared. Teachers worry about the kids they have been assigned. Parents and kids have the same worry, but in reverse.

Last year at this time I posted a blog noting that teachers needed a “sense of humor” to make it through the year. Having a “sense of humor,” as you might guess, is not enough. You can’t laugh your way toward being a successful teacher.

Social-emotional authorities offer additional suggestions about how to begin your new school year:

  • First, save the “get down to business” façade for another time. Meet your new students, greet them and welcome them in a festive and positive way.
  • Second, those who care, share! Let your students share their summer stories, something about themselves and what they are looking forward to in this new school year.
  • Third, have students participate in establishing class rules– the do’s and don’ts, the choices and consequences and the routines and responsibilities.
  • Fourth, encourage your students to use a personal journal to record three things they are taking away with them at the end of each school day.
  • And, fifth, involve the parents. They are your best hope for continuity and reinforcement of school and classroom messages.

Here are a few of my favorite suggestions that you might want to share with your students and their parents.

  • “What is modeled is imitated.”– M. Borba
  • Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated (good and bad).
  • There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.
  • “What we allow we teach; what we accept, they will do.” — M.Borba
  • The classroom is as much a social setting as it is an academic one.
  • Character is about second chances but only if you learn from your mistakes.
  • “If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.” — Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius
  • Take the Pottery Barn oath: You break it, you own it.
  • “Negative attitudes drain, positive attitudes fuel.” — M. Marshall
  • “Relationships are to learning as location is to real estate.” — J. Comer
  • Tell them and they will forget; teach them and they may remember; involve them and they will learn.” — paraphrase of a Benjamin Franklin saying

Ronald Ferguson, a professor at Harvard University, has been studying effective teaching factors that make a difference in the classroom’s learning environment. Let’s add his Seven C’s to our What’s Up Front suggestions.

  1. Caring — nurturing positive and productive relationships
  1. Controlling — creating behaviors that are cooperative and supported by peers
  1. Clarifying — making success seem feasible, helping with confusion and promoting understanding
  1. Challenging — pressing for effort, rigor, hard work and use of thinking skills
  1. Captivating — making learning interesting, relevant; capturing student attention, eliminating boredom and prioritizing student time.
  1. Conferring — taking time for student feedback, respecting their ideas and listening
  1. Consolidating — summarizing, connecting and integrating ideas and learning

You are the one “up front.” Use these suggestions! Keep your “sense of humor!” Tape these on your desk, read them everyday, have a successful teaching year and remember:

“The best teacher is not necessarily the one who possesses the most knowledge, but the one who most effectively enables the students to believe in their ability to learn.” — Norman Cousins

Ed DeRoche is a former teacher, administrator, school board member and dean. He has written several books and articles on character education. Currently he is the director of the Character Development Center at the University of San Diego and teaches in-class and online courses on instructional strategies, curriculum and programs, and character-based classroom management. Join the party.

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