Thirteen things I try to remember at the start of a new year

1. Learn the children’s names as quickly as you can – use mnemonics and include the students in the process. Ask for their help.
2. Share your thinking with them – ask them about the layout of the room, the resources, the tables etc. Its their place of work as well as yours.
3. Set clear expectations and explain why. “This is a place for learning, there’s a lot of us and if its going to work well then we all have to do our bit.”
4. Include yourself – “I’ll remind you if you forget and I’ll do my best to plan lessons that will be interesting. Sometimes though learning means doing things that are a bit boring, I can’t help that. But I promise I won’t ever waste your time and I’ll always explain why I’m asking you to do something.”
5. Explain that different kinds of learning require different kinds of behaviour – concentrated thinking (reading, writing etc) needs a quiet/silent room; a classroom discussion needs people to listen and speak one at a time; building and making activities need people to work together and share resources etc… I use this poster as a reminder.
7. Only shout in an emergency. Children hate shouting and its a sign you’ve lost control. If a teacher shouts for strategic reasons then its a bad strategy.
8. Nevertheless, be firm and consistent. Children don’t like teachers who vacillate.
9. Be fair. If you didn’t see what happened, then say so. Listen to both sides and work together to find a solution. Don’t be influenced by children’s reputations.
10. Avoid becoming the classroom (playground) problem-solver. Talk to the children about how they can solve their own problems and how they don’t always need an adult to help them. When things go wrong they can ask themselves:

  •   Is this something I can sort out myself?
  •   Is this something I need an adult to help me with?
  •   Is this something I need an adult to deal with?

11. Share your assessment criteria with the class. Put it on the wall and give the children time to assess their own work. I use a scale 1 – 5 (with a description for each), 1 – terrible quality; 2 – poor quality; 3 – satisfactory; 4 – good; 5 – top quality. I made this one for my Year 2 Class.
12. Where possible, plan activities in a meaningful and engaging context. Not all the curriculum can be taught in this way, but when it is, it is much more effective. See the planning resources here.
13. Smile. As often as you can. Its not a sign of weakness, the children appreciate it and you’ll find yourself enjoying it.


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  1. Cameron August 28, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    “Smile. As often as you can.” What great advice. Last year I found myself smiling less and this year I have focused on giving myself just a couple of minutes before each class starts to ensure I’m in a good frame of mind. I try to play music, with a connection to the lesson about to be taught, as the students are entering. They start smiling (and sometimes dancing) and we all commence in a good mood. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. Brian Edmiston September 1, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    For the missing number 6 what about: Be critical (and don’t assume e.g. that there are 13 things just because I say so!)

    OR one I use: we can always dialogue and (though not necessarily immediately) I’ll listen to you

    OR one a teacher introduced me to this week: I’ll never make you do something you don’t want to do

    • Tim Taylor September 1, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks Brian, I hadn’t noticed 6 was missing. Must have got stuck abroad.

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