Monday, August 26, 2019

Back to School Checklist for Educators


By now, many educators are back into the new school year and off and running as they design their experience for students. Creating an environment and community that supports the learning is critical as students come through the school doors and find their space with the walls of your classroom and your school.

As we scroll through social media, parents and teachers alike are sharing pictures, quotes and motivational messages to ensure that this school is even better than the last. As an educator, the profession we have chosen is constantly evolving and once again we are reminded of the role that we have chosen and its impact is greater than ever before.

And, while some teachers are still a week or two out from the year starting, you get the added bonus of reading and seeing the very messages that are moving us to do great things in our communities from those that are already a week, or two, or more into the 2019/2020 school year.

For all educators, whether having started your year or still eagerly anticipating your first day of class, here are some reminders to help ensure and remind that it is how you start your year that will make all the difference in the eyes of those you serve.

1. Your #1st3Days (and beyond) are the Foundation. If you are on Twitter, I encourage you to search that hashtag and see what your colleagues are up to around the globe. And, check out the other hashtags that are trending around education. Being connected and learning from others is just the beginning of your own learning journey as you head back to school. Sharing out what we do to start a school year is an intentional movement of sharing ideas and experiences that will help in holding yourself accountable and make sure you are putting the content second and relationships first.

2. Create Your Space. It is not just a matter of what you learn but where you learn. An inviting space is a powerful space. While today's student continues to morph and learning styles grow over time, work with local businesses that could help you outfit your space to make it perfect. Create a space that inspires, fits and supports your teaching and the students learning.

3. Grow Leaders Starting on Day 1. While the teacher is often at the front of the room, make sure to grow the minds of those the come to your room and find the leaders within. Give your students a voice as you create your expectations for the year. Not just the "don't do's" but also the "must have's". Things like trust, communication, permission to take risks and permission to fail should be right up there with respect, kindness and compassion.

4. Model it. We have heard it hundreds of times over. Practice what you preach. Or in this case, model what you want from others and let your actions speak for themselves. Whether leading classrooms of students or a team of educators, being present and giving of your best every day is essential to what you are going to get in return. Remember, it is not a sign on a wall that is going to get the best out of your team, it is how you model what you want that will get your greatest return.

5. Emphasize Empathy. The Design Thinking framework begins with empathy. Understanding and applying Social Emotional Learning is all about empathy both for and of others. If you are familiar with the work of Tim and Brian Kight and the Focus3 team, they emphasize the need for empathy. This also leads right into the foundation of what we do as educators each day. Build trust comes from having compassion, building character and showing competence. If you emphasize empathy, your results will speak for themselves.

In the end, take everything you know, you have read, you talk about with others and that is right in education and apply it during these first few days of the year. Create that base, support others, lean on your colleagues and bring in the community to help you grow in who you are what we get to do each day. Whether it is the power of the team, doing the work or simply being the best version of yourself each day, let's own it and be all that is good, if not great, in education today. Our students and our community deserves it.

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