Typhani Harris | August 2016

Welcome to School… Again.

Welcome to the Teacher Locker Series where we are unlocking secrets and revealing the perfect combination of resources to have an effective and successful start to the new school year. Welcome to school again!

We are about to start a new year (or you have just begun a new year), and the first few days will set the tone for all 10 months ahead of you.  Ideally, we all want a classroom that encourages student ownership, but that is easier said than done.  As we work towards building a class environment that is self sufficient, we need to set up our expectations from day one also to welcome to school all students and teachers. This week’s teacher locker will uncover the top 3 things to get your class up and running… by itself.

1. Solid Syllabus

Although I do not suggest sharing the syllabus on the first day, because day 1 should be used to build relationships, a solid and comprehensive syllabus that will act as an agreement between you, the students, and their parents.  Include your contact information, the course description, and objectives for the course.  This is also a good place to introduce specific policies or procedures you have, for instance, your policy for cell phones, food/drink, absence or tardy/lateness and any other welcome to school-wide expectations.

If you are planned for the year, including the assignments and assessments, or a course calendar with specific due dates.  If your year is not fully planned, at least include important dates like midterms, finals, state exams, and grading periods.  Also, include the various modes of communication you will be using and how to access it.  This can include the number and code for the Remind app, class website or blog platform, or any other classroom technology like turnitin.com.  Be sure to include your materials expectations.  Do you want student using a 3-ring binder, a spiral notebook, a composition book?  The syllabus is also a great place to introduce student leadership.

2. Student Leadership

Building student leadership in the classroom framework is a quick way to begin helping students take ownership of their education.  However, you need to determine what this will look like.  I personally like to have 2 main class leaders in each classroom, I also like to have students elect the leaders as it provides a little more buy-in.  These leaders are responsible for conducting certain parts of the class as well as conducting class if there is a substitute teacher (this is why it is important that the full class has a say in their leaders).

I make it a point to introduce the leadership opportunity into the syllabus so everyone is on the same page.  I also conduct monthly meetings with all of the leaders so I can gauge the classroom temperature, student interest, and have the leaders feel like they are truly representing their peers in the choices made for the class as a whole.

3. Environment

Environment will immediately, visually and physically, show students that this is our classroom.  When we have desks in rows, facing front toward a teachers desk we are non verbally saying, I am in charge and you will sit and watch and listen.  When we alter the environment we are saying, we are all in this together.  Consider a few options for altering the classroom environment.  Sometimes it is important to have theatre seating however, most times, groups/pairs, discussion, and debate are styles work for everything that is being done in class.

These will get your year started off right so you can step back, stop teaching and start reaching your students. This week’s download is our five ways to create student ownership in the classroom from day one.  Just tell us where to send it below!  Be sure to check your email.

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About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.