Teachers’ Back to School Tips

New clothes, supplies and enthusiasm are brimming in your students and you’ve got another glorius chance to kick things off in the best way possible. Do it right.

It’s time to go back to work! School holidays are over and if you’re a teacher, it’s time to welcome back our students for another year of blood, sweat & tears (actually, let’s hope not!). Before greeting students back into the classroom, there are a few things all teachers need to do for the year ahead. Here are some of them:

  • Meet with your TA and, if applicable, your students’ Chinese teacher and discuss your plans for the upcoming semester. It is not unusual for clashes to occur between foreign teachers and Chinese TAs/teachers, and meeting and outlining everyone’s expectations will go a long way towards everyone moving in the same direction.
  • Obtain all the materials and supplies you may need. It may be impossible to get all the resources you need for the whole semester, but try to get all the resources you need for at least the first month. This will definitely involve you doing some forward planning, but it will avoid you walking into class unprepared and under-resourced.
  • Create your class rules and procedures. This is key to establishing a well-managed classroom. Rather than you coming up with these rules by yourself on the first day of school, encourage your students to think up the rules by themselves (with your aid, if they need it). Research shows that when students share in the rulemaking they tend to follow them a lot better than if they are simply told the rules.
  • Create a class WeChat group. Some teachers may hate this, as they might view it as an invitation for students to impede on a teacher’s free time. I’ve made WeChat groups for every class I’ve had—ever since we’ve been able to make WeChat groups—and I have never found students or students’ parents abusing the system. WeChat groups have many benefits to a teacher and the learning process. They are helpful with communication between parents and teachers, useful when setting homework/reviews, and establishes openness and trust to aid in clarifying any issues that might arise. However, it is important to make sure that it’s okay with your school before opening a WeChat group, as some schools may frown upon their usage.

It is not unusual for clashes to occur between foreign teachers and Chinese TAs/teachers, and meeting and outlining everyone’s expectations will go a long way towards everyone moving in the same direction.

  • Review your first day and initial weeks’ lesson plans. This may apply to younger learners more than older ones, but it is important that all students feel comfortable and safe in their new classroom as quickly as possible. Review the lesson plans and be sure to create a few extras, just in case. The first few lessons/days will help you gauge your class’s pace and overall makeup—you may get swamped or finish early. In either case, it’s best to be prepared for any unexpected moments.
  • Create and send home a Back-to-School Student Welcome Letter. This will help you start off on the right foot with students and/or parents. Some of the information you should include is a biography about yourself, what students need to bring everyday, what children can expect at school, class rules, curriculum overview and how parents/students can communicate with you.
  • Set up your classroom. Classroom furniture should be arranged according to your teaching/school’s style. Should tables and chairs be arranged in traditional rows, cooperative clusters (my preferred method) or horseshoe shaped? However, you decide to set up your classroom, make sure your students are placed so that you are able to see everyone and that everyone can clearly see you, too.

Once you have decided on the sitting arrangements, you’ll need to decorate your classroom. If you aren’t an arts & crafts type, jump on the internet and you’ll find many easy-to-make ideas. Decorating your classroom properly will set the tone for the whole semester and it will also enhance the learning process for your students, as the environment can create many learning opportunities for them.

How your class is decorated reflects on you and if you take pride in your classroom, your students will, too. Don’t treat your space’s look as an afterthought or as a tedious chore that must be done. A few hours spent doing things properly will pay itself off in spades.

Remember, the secret to a successful start of the school year is in the details. Have a great year!

Category Class Act