tOP 10 iTEMS TO REMEMBER
By Jon Belt
I just had my first day for the 7th time as a Middle School English teacher. It never fails that I feel nervous, anxious, and excited. This was a feeling I used to get before basketball games in high school and college.
It means I care.
It means I want to do a great job.
It means I'm scared I won't.
After the first minute of addressing the class, it was like riding a bike for the first time after a ten year sabbatical from the two wheeled object - it was like I never left. I forget how many vital elements need to be discussed the first day, and how little time we have.
1. Check their schedules
Too often in the past, I would let all students in my classroom on the first day. I would then get deep into procedures and forget to take roll until the end of the hour. After calling names, I realized some were in the wrong classroom (6th graders). This realization has led me to check their schedules before I let the dazed and confused enter the classroom.
2. Greet your students
I use a fist bump. In Harry Wong's book "The First Day," he mentions to greet each student with a hand shake. I have modified this to a fist bump for obvious reasons.
3. Enter Pass/Exit Pass
After giving said fist bump, they receive a pencil from me. I preface the class in the hallway before entering with: "This pencil is your entering and exiting pass. If you have not received your pencil you may not enter, if you do not have it when you exit then you must find it." This procedure seems like enabling, but anytime they complain about a dull pencil, or no eraser I immediately say: "This is an enter and exit pass, you are in charge of bringing your supplies." This also holds me accountable for a fist bump in & out the door. Sometimes I switch it up and let the students be in charge of a pencil and a fist bump.
4. Entering and Exiting
your classroom sets the stage for learning. If the students enter crazy everyday, that will bleed over into the rest of your lesson.
I teach sixth graders -- if this is not practiced every day in the first month, then I will be fighting it all year. My goal is for them to enter with voices off, and begin their SOLO TIME (Independent work). If I hear a whisper, or a laugh they ALL are then escorted out of the room, and they get to try again. They might have to practice five or more times. This reinforces your expectations, and how you want your class to run.
the classroom should be very similar to entering. The bell does not dismiss them. If the bell dismisses them, they tend to get into a frenzy and knock each other over so they can get to P.E. early.
"When I say Exit A, you gather your things WITHOUT getting up."
"When I say Exit B, you stand up and make sure you have picked up around your area. If there is trash on the floor in YOUR AREA you may discard it on the way out."
Usually I will have one or two that did not hear a word I just said, and I will have them practice it again, after repeating the steps.
I first started teaching at a rural Oklahoma school, and I taught how my teachers taught me. You raise your hand for EVERYTHING! When I went to a bigger district with a diverse demographic, I quickly realized this was not going to be efficient. So, I started doing simple signals.
Restroom: Raise hand with fingers crossed
Tissue: Point to nose
Sharpen your Pencil: Raise your pencil in the air
Ask or Answer: Raise 5 fingers in the air
This is a simple start, and you can always add more.
6. Voice Levels
Whole Brain Teaching is the method I use in my classroom. It is so fun for me and the students. I definitely had to step out of my comfort zone for this one -- but aren't we better teachers when we do this?
I refer to voice levels on a daily basis, so the students know their expectations.
0-1 = No Talk
2 = Whisper
3 = Classroom
4 = Presenting
5 = Outside
7. Discipline Plan
Students need to know their behavioral expectations, and also the steps that will be taken.
Step 1: Restate the Rule to the entire class -- For example, If a student is constantly shouting out answers without raising hand -- WBT method would sound like this:
Teacher: Class Class
Students: Yes Yes
Teacher: What's Rule Number Two?
Students: Raise your hand for permission to speak
This way, we are not addressing the student directly and he/she can correct the mistake.
Step 2: Restate, Relocate, and Think Sheet
If the student continues to disregard the rules, I restate the rule, and relocate the student. After relocating, I hand the student a think sheet. The think sheet contains fill in the blanks with simple questions such as: What rule did you not follow? And Why? What will you do to correct it next time? Is there anything I need to know about you in order to better your classroom behavior?
Step 3: Buddy Teacher & Call Home
If the student does not learn from his/her mistakes, the next step is sending them with a Think Sheet to a buddy teacher. I would then call home, and discuss options with the student's guardians.
Step 4: Office
I am not a fan of sending students to the office, because they don't get your valuable classroom time. Bottom line is; if a student continues to cause disturbances and distractions, then they are interrupting learning from other students -- and that in NOT okay.
Step 5: Referral
This goes together with Step 4. I usually send a referral at the same time I send a student to the office. Again, I try my best to avoid Steps 4 & 5.
8. Teach the 5 Rules
This is another WBT method. I love the five rules because it covers everything. I start my class teaching these, and continue throughout the year.
Rule 1: Follow Directions Quickly
Rule 2: Raise your hand for Permission to Speak
Rule 3: Raise your hand for Permission to Leave your Seat
Rule 4: Make Smart Choices
Rule 5: Keep your Teacher Happy
This is followed with gestures. There are tons of videos on how to teach the WBT method.
I have different stations in my classroom so I do not waste valuable class time. These stations are in the back of my room, and easily visible. These stations include:
Pencil Station - I have two cups, those for Dull Pencils, and a cup of Sharp Pencils -- They exchange their dull pencil for a sharp one. This works great!
Paper Station - This is where I keep the notebook paper, they have a signal for this.
Needs Graded Station - This is just a 6 drawer plastic storage container. They put their work in the designated period.
Absent Station - This is a folder with Monday - Friday dividers with what we did from start to finish. I have students do this as a job.
Pass Station - Yellow Folder = Restroom; Green = Teacher to Teacher; Blue = Library; Purple = Counselor; Orange = Locker; Red = Nurse. There is a Sign Out page on the inside that the students sign and date.
Tardy Station - I have rosters by period in this folder. Like the absent folder, I have a student mark those that are tardy. They usually keep the folder on their desk during class.
10. Be Grateful
You will struggle, and frustration will build. Let it go. It has taken me seven years to acknowledge this powerful simple phrase "Let it go." Instead of letting the struggle and frustration rule your thoughts...let it go. This life is meant for enjoyment.
Be grateful you are impacting minds that haven't been shaped yet.
Be grateful for all the little ups and downs you face.
Be grateful for your leadership role.
Be grateful for all the little nuances in your life.
Jon Belt lives in
By Jon Belt
I have been teaching middle school for 6 years now, and have always worked in the summer, and never really took time to focus on “me.” I am a home body, and seem to think that since I enjoy relaxing at home, it counts for “me” time during the year. This realization is completely untrue. Without going into detail, the teacher today is worn out. I will leave it at that, and save this “teacher 10.0” of today for another list.
This is my first summer that I have dedicated to me. Summers off in the past were mainly dedicated to lazy time (cue the remote and the recliner), but this summer is different. Yes, I have spent a lot of time sleeping, and watching “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix, but aside from that I had goals. These goals are dedicated to my future, and becoming a better person physically, philosophically, and academically.
So here is a list that all teachers should strive for during their summer break.
Side note: I am not saying you shouldn’t work in the summer, because I understand some of us do not have a choice. You can follow this list with or without a job.
1. Forget about the classroom for the month of June
This is really hard to do, because the classroom is our livelihood.
This is needed in order to focus on the “me” aspect.
The caveat would be to not make it the whole summer of forgetting. This will add more stress to your upcoming school year. You will be playing catch up all year.
After the fourth of July is a great time to begin thinking what your classroom will look like and what you want from your students.
2. Revisit your personal and professional goals
The first week of summer break is the best time to do this task.
We forget what we strive for in the future during the school year, because our plate is so full. This is a great opportunity to either revisit your goals from the past, or write new ones. These goals should be specific:
What is the goal – Why do you want to accomplish it – How are you going to accomplish it
3. Get Healthy
It is so easy to stop at Little Caesars on the way home after a long day on your feet as a teacher. Unhealthy habits are easy to prolong especially dealing with the stress of a teacher’s everyday life. So, the summer is the perfect platform to stop those unhealthy habits. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s possible.
Start simple, cut out something (fast food, sugary drinks, restaurants). What we put in our bodies determines our stress. This could really help with your bank account as well ~ two birds.
A great app to use to track how your are doing with your goals: Way of Life
4. Get physical
This goes hand in hand with number two. If you are not accustomed to working out, then go for a walk in the morning or evening for 30 minutes. Figure out what you enjoy doing. If you hate running, but enjoy tennis, then be Roger Federer three times a week. The key is trying to develop simple life habits to bring you into the school year.
5. Read Books and Listen to Podcasts
"Leaders are Readers." - Harry S. Truman
I am not the biggest reader so I do have to force myself. Since, I am not the biggest reader, I have decided that two nonfiction books (depending on length) is sufficient for the summer. If you love to read then this should be easy. Chunk it in everyday. Make a goal of 15 pages a day, and usually that turns into more. If you refuse to read, then listen to an audiobook - This counts as reading.
Find two educational podcasts and dedicate 30 minutes a day to listening. This can be done on a run, in a car, laying at the pool, doing the dishes, making the bed, etc.
There are some great ones out there.
Meditation is a massage for your central nervous system. It relaxes your body, and helps you to enjoy the present moment. It is something simple that doesn't need to take hours. A simple five minutes in the morning when you wake up, and five minutes before you go to bed. Focus on your breathing, and the mind numbing effects are amazing. I am still a beginner, and needed some guided meditations to make sure I was doing it right.
The apps I tried were: Calm, and Headspace. They have free guided meditations, but if you want to get even deeper, they have a paid subscription you can purchase.
Jon Belt lives in