Your Guide to Setting Expectations for Learning as a First Year Teacher
Congratulations! You’ve arrived at your first year of teaching. If you are anything like I was when I started teaching, you are a bundle of emotions. You’re excited to meet your students. You’re nervous about teaching new content. Overall, you’re just ready to get the year started, but as the first day of school approaches, you wonder how to set expectations for learning in your classroom. How strict will you be? How strict will you have to be? How do you encourage your students to learn? Every first year teacher faces these dilemmas, but with the help of this guide, you can set yourself and your students up for success. So, take a deep breath and keep reading.
Why Setting Expectations is Important
Just like it’s a new school year for you, it’s also a new year for your students. When students walk into your classroom on the first day of school, they are apprehensive and unsure of what will be expected of them, how you will run the classroom, and just what the year holds for them. Setting expectations puts them at ease as well as builds their confidence throughout the year. They will be able to grow and learn knowing the boundaries which makes for a better school year for everyone.
Decide What Your Learning Expectations Will Be
The first step is deciding what your expectations will be for your classroom. Think of everything from what students should do when they enter your room to how students should turn their work in to whether or not they are allowed to stand at the door and wait for the bell to ring.
Think about how you want them to learn. Will you be giving mostly lectures? Will you give them more hands-on time to work with your subject and possibly a partner? How are they supposed to act in both or either of those situations? While some situations will not need to be described for them on the first day of school, you will need to go over those expectations in the next few days and weeks as the situation arises. The more prepared you are, the better.
Communicate Your Expectations to Students and Parents
Next you should make sure your expectations are clear to both students and parents. A syllabus and classroom expectations handout is a great place to start. On the first day of school send the syllabus home for parents to sign. Even if parents just sign the paper, you can keep that copy in your files. If a parent wonders later in the year about your plagiarism policy or late work policy, you can refer to the expectations paper they signed. It saves a lot of time and headache to make sure everyone is aware of those expectations in the first few days of school.
As a first year teacher, you dread and wonder what to do when someone doesn’t meet your expectations. First, include some of those consequences in your list of expectations. Are you going to move student seats? When does someone get sent to the principal’s office? There will always be scenarios that arise that surprise you, but be firm and hold your ground. Obviously, this is different based on your classroom teaching style as well as what grade level you teach.
Whatever happens, be consistent in what you do. If partners aren’t working together, then separate them, but make sure it applies to all partners who aren’t working. If class is interrupted by a student, don’t be afraid to send them to the hall while you get students working on something independently before you address the issue. It will seem like a lot at the beginning of the year, but as the first quarter comes to an end, students will understand what you expect of them.
Make Adjustments as Needed
As hard as it is, remember that we all make mistakes. It is humbling to stand in front of your class and admit to making a mistake. There are two great things that occur when you do, though. First, your students will look at you slightly differently. It’s not very often that adults indicate they’ve made a mistake. Your realness shows your students that it’s okay to make mistakes, but they have to take ownership of them. We are all humans, and we all mess up. This way when a student makes a mistake, you can connect with them more easily. This is the other benefit: a better relationship with your students. You get to be real with them, which in turn helps them be more real with you. So, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your expectations. Know that many scenes in the classroom don’t pan out the way we plan it.
So, are you ready to tackle your first year of teaching? You can do it! Be firm and give yourself some grace. You will do a great job! Got any other advice for first year teachers? Share with us on Twitter @Schoology