Never too late for what? Hmmm. Well, everyone has just finished the first week, or two or three, of the school year. For those of us who are returning teachers, it’s pretty much the same old same old, but for new teachers beginning their first year (or even their second), it has probably gone something like this . . .
You started the first day determined not to live the addage “don’t smile until Christmas.” You thought you could be that cool teacher who was probably the reason you got into teaching in the first place. You sat down on a desk, maybe, on that first day and talked to your students. Got to know them a bit. Set them all at ease, hoping they’d realize what a cool teacher you were going to be. Visions of grown ups visiting your classroom 20 years in the future — telling you that you were the reason they became the scientists who discovered the cures for all kinds of ills, or the Pulitzer and Nobel prize winning author — danced through your head as you tossed conventional goal- and rule-setting plans out the door and began to develop meaningful relationships with your kiddoes.
First day, second day, all good. After all, kids generally don’t begin the school year really focusing on being disruptive. They are still in the funk from summer, and trying to give you a good first impression. After awhile though, you noticed that there was just one thing missing from your classroom — respect. It may have begun as an annoying hum of talking while you are trying to address the class. Now it’s chaos.
Many of us did it. I did it my first year. I determined not to do it my second year, but found myself slipping back into that pattern. Today’s teaching truth: It is never too late for the first day of school.
If you messed up and didn’t establish firm procedures and protocols on that first day of school, have a do-over. Spend your next day in class going over procedures and expectations with your students. They will grumble, but in the end – if you are consistent – they will respect you. I don’t mean respect as in fear – I mean respect as in the same type of respect you remember having for that “cool teacher” of your youth. Your memories are of cool because that is what your emotion is tied to. The fact is, they spent the first few weeks of school establishing themselves as the authority in that classroom, just like you need to. I’m not saying that students have to be absolutely quiet and motionless in your classroom. There is nothing that disturbs me more than when my classroom is quiet – I need to hear the dull roar of creativity. BUT, students must understand when it is okay to make noise and when they must pay attention.
Don’t give up. I believe that classroom management issues is one of the biggest reasons we lose new teachers and it is a shame because it can be fixed. I promise it gets better if you make it happen.