By Christopher J. Jackson
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your first year as a teacher and your first classroom, your new “home away from home.”
A teacher’s perception of their classroom says a lot about how their first year at the school could go. You can set the tone of your classroom from Day One by establishing an atmosphere for each student, no matter their cultural background, race, or ethnicity. This article provides five tips for making your classroom your arena.
Feel the Classroom Vibes
When you first walk into your classroom, I challenge you to stop, close your eyes, and imagine your room filled with students. Your students come from different backgrounds, genders, races, ethnicities, and cultures. Envision what your classroom would look like to ensure each student will walk in and feel safe, welcome, and willing to learn.
First-Day Classroom Vibes
Take a breath and know that everything is going to be okay. It’s just the first day. You’ve set the culture for your classroom and are eager to meet your students. As your students enter the classroom, whether you are a primary or secondary teacher, it is important to make your first impression lasting. It’s okay to smile! Start with an icebreaker. Allow your students to introduce themselves so that they each feel welcomed. The vibe of the classroom during the first day will set the tone for the next, and the next. Remember to breathe! Your only concern is in making it through day one in your classroom.
During my first year, my mentor teacher stressed that each day in the classroom was going to be different. She went on to say that each class period (for secondary teachers) will have a distinct personality. Teachers must have a routine for students to follow from the time they enter the classroom until they leave. Whether bell ringers, reading, or getting out materials, have something for students to do. Also, understand that some days students will be fully engaged, and the next day students will act as if they have not been taught all year. It is essential for you as the teacher not to give up on your students. Students feed off your energy. Remember, this is your classroom and your arena.
Know your students. Your classroom culture plays a significant role in the comfort students feel in your classroom. The phrase “culture of your classroom” is not solely based on what students physically see in your classroom. The culture also deals with the level of respect among students, the relations between teachers and their students, and the cultivation of awareness that each student has what it takes to be successful in and out of the classroom.
Record the Vibes
Educate yourself. According to Dimitroff and Dimitroff (2018), “It seems that at some point, every teacher is bound to ask themselves the critical question “Am I successful?” or “Is my teaching effective?” Part of becoming a great teacher is evaluating how every day goes in the classroom. If it was a great day, record it. If you realize you could have done something different that would’ve increased engagement among students, record it. Even if your day was terrible to the point where you may have considered quitting (even for a split second), record it. Your primary goal as a teacher is to connect and teach your students. Any and everything after that is a bonus to your classroom. After recording your notes, be sure to go back and read them from time to time. You will be surprised how much you will evolve as a teacher from day one to day 180.
Becoming a teacher is both exciting and rewarding. Your classroom is what you make it. Continue to create a cultural atmosphere that fits all students and yourself. If you begin to feel discouraged, take a moment to pause, close your eyes, and breathe. Remember, it is your classroom and your arena. Make it a great first year in the classroom.
Mr. Jackson is a doctoral student at Xavier University of Louisiana. Jackson currently resides in Florida, where he serves the Marion County Public School District as an English instructor. Jackson aspires to be a change agent among students and new teachers.
Teacher Vision The Applicious Teacher, “20 Supplies to Start Your Classroom”
Dimitroff, A., & Dimitroff, A. (2018). New beginnings: Trials and triumphs of newly hired teachers. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(2), 135–153.