For most students (and even teachers), the first day of school is a mix of anxiety and excitement. Those first-day jitters are a normal part of new beginnings; however, teachers can do a few simple things to make sure students feel safe and welcome on their first day back to school.
- Open up
Go beyond the simple introduction and share the story of how you got where you are today. Students respond positively when teachers make themselves vulnerable by revealing more personal anecdotes, such as a slightly embarrassing story from their days as a student. You could intertwine some funny tales with heartfelt reasons you chose to be a teacher or play a game like “two truths and a lie.” There are many creative ways to introduce yourself to students while having fun breaking the ice.
- Tell students what they can do
Class rules are usually expressed in negative commands, for example, “No food or drink.” Instead try saying, “Water bottles allowed.” If you want students to keep their phones away, you could adjust the rule to say, “Keep phones in your bookbag unless otherwise instructed.” You can also ask students for input regarding class expectations. This collaboration helps students feel valued and encourages an inclusive culture where all voices are given equal importance.
- Call students by their names
Beginning on day one, address students by their names as soon as you can. In fact, one of the first activities should be having students create simple nameplates for themselves on notecards. If a student has a name that you’re not sure how to pronounce, have them say it first, and make it known that you really want to get it right because you know how important it is.
- Assign seats
To avoid any potentially embarrassing situations where a student is met with an unwelcoming glare (or worse) when choosing a seat, go ahead and assign seats on the first day. This could be as easy as handing students a number as they walk through the door or assigning them alphabetically. These seats don’t have to be permanent, but it giving students one less thing to worry about may help take away some of their anxiety.
- Connect with families
Before students arrive home after the first day, send a brief message to families either through your school’s learning management tool or by email. Introduce yourself, inform families about the events of the day, make sure they know how best to get in contact with you, and remind them of any important forms they need to complete. This first contact home lets families know you prioritize communication and value their input.
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano