Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Back-to-School Checklist for Educators


For many of us, the first day of school can not come soon enough. For those in the northeast, no worries, you still have until Labor Day to get in the many important summer outings. However, for those across the midwest, the south and to the far west, we will heading back to school in the coming weeks. And, we are getting excited to do so!

Back-to-school means so many different things to students, teachers and leaders alike. It is a new opportunity to explore new experiences. Relationships will have an entirely new starting point, slates are wiped clean and the learning that will take place is endless. We are our only obstacle and we can control how the year begins and where we will go throughout the months ahead.

Now that back-to-school is closing in, here is a checklist for educators to start the year:

1. Relationships First. The excitement heading into this year is powerful. The staff I am fortunate to work with has committed to starting their year like never before. We are committing the first three days of school to forming, fostering and embracing the relationships with our students, parents and community. "The content can wait", is what we have agreed to and is our slogan out of the gate. Investing every ounce of energy in to getting to know the community of learners we are going to work with for 180+ days can not. I look forward to sharing out about our #1st3Days in mid-August. We challenge you to hold off on diving into specific content. Instead, get to know those that you will spend an amazing amount of time with in an intentional and meaningful way.

2. Bring Patience. Just as much as this is a reminder for you as the teacher and leader, this is also to be kept in the forefront of your mind as students and parents enter the building. Whether a first-time kindergarten child or parent, a high schooler heading off to their freshman year or a teacher just starting their career, the first days of school can be full of angst and stress that we can collectively work together to ease. Deep breaths, lots of smiles and the sounds of laughter abound should fill your first days of school. Be patient and find the bright spots even in the most difficult of moments as the stresses of back-to-school arise.

3. Think Foundation. Whether working with staff, greeting parents at open house or standing by the front doors on the first days of school, the back-to-school experience means the start of a new journey in teaching and learning. Each moment of each day should build upon the next. What you do today will prepare your audience for tomorrow. Very little of what we do happens in isolation so think foundation as you begin to build those essential relationships. It's worth starting one brick at a time and being the mortar that holds it all in place.

4. It is a Story. Just like the first days are the foundation of your year, each day there after is a part of the story that has yet to be written. Different characters will take shape as the story unfolds and the setting will be your classrooms and school buildings in which we learn collectively. As the teacher and the leaders in our respective buildings we hold the key to whether our story and the story of our school community is a best seller or not. Just as an author has to make revisions to their work, we too have an opportunity to make corrections in our teaching and learning. Be inspired by the story you are writing.

5. Celebrate Day One. In our #1st3Days we are not only going to focus on relationships and think foundation, we are also going to celebrate our students and our staffs return to school. What many educators think to be end-of-the-year activities, we are putting them at the beginning. Instead of sitting and hearing syllabus upon syllabus, we are going to set a tone of expectations and excitement to our journey together. Nervous middle school students will be welcomed by eager teachers ready to explore endless learning opportunities. We will celebrate day one and every day there after.

As you think about all of your back-to-school items on your checklist, don't lose sight of the amazing responsibility we have as educators. There is so much that will be accomplished as long as we are intentional and purposeful in how we return. And, if you are dreading your return to school, then please weigh your options and consider not coming back at all. We need teachers and leaders that are overflowing with anticipation and excitement to welcome a new school year. Be ready to make a difference in the life of a child and an educator.