Teacher Tips for the New Year
Happy January! I absolutely love the start of a brand new year. Crisp new planners, fresh goals, and good intentions are my jam. The thing I don’t like about the new year though? The fact that these “good intentions” only last about a week…and then we settle right back into our old routines. I personally believe the reason this happens so often is due to not have an actionable plan. People make their “resolutions” based off things they want to accomplish, but then don’t ever take the time to think about how they are going to accomplish it! The “how” is the most important part of goal setting!
As a teacher, I would often approach the new semester with fresh ideas, and the intention of “fixing” things that didn’t go well the first half of the year. But then, overwhelm would set in, and I’d be right back to the old routines that didn’t work. Anyone else?
In an effort to help solve this problem, I created a little acronym to help teachers focus on areas to improve and create an action plan to address each of those areas. The acronym is R.E.S.E.T. and stands for the 5 main areas we will focus on: Routines, Expectations, Systems, Environment, and Techniques. Keep reading for some helpful teacher tips on using this acronym as you plan for the rest of the year!
First things first, set aside time for reflection.
Before you start on any part of this, it’s important that you first set aside some time specifically devoted to working on this. Don’t let it be a last minute thing you rush through, or it won’t stick! If you need to take it one section at a time, that’s fine. Don’t hesitate to set it aside and come back later if you get stuck! But the important thing is that when you are working on it, it has your full attention.
Teacher Tip: Don’t worry about getting this perfect the first time around! R.E.S.E.T. should be a living, breathing process that can be changed as many times as needed throughout the year! Don’t be afraid to come back to it regularly and adjust things as needed.
First up, you are going to evaluate your class routines. For the purpose of this exercise, routines are regular activities or processes that involve your students. Some examples of routines include:
- How students enter class in the morning
- How students line up
- Cleaning up the classroom
- Going to the bathroom
As you think through each of your routines, put them into two categories: routines that are working well, and routines that students have a harder time with. Write them down so you don’t forget!
For the ones that seem to be working well, no further action is needed! Keep doing what you’re doing. For the ones that students struggle with, come up with a few action points for how to address these things. Be as specific as possible. It will help if you really pinpoint what specifically isn’t working, and then create an action step to address that.
For example, maybe you feel as though your students are taking too long in the bathroom, which could mean that they are playing. What change could you make to your routine to fix this? If you allow more than one student gone at a time, maybe change it to only one student so you know they aren’t playing with each other. Or, implement a sign in/sign out system where students have to write down the time they leave and return to the classroom. This way, you can review how long each student is taking and address it appropriately.
Next up, evaluate your expectations. Expectations involves how you expect your students to behave or act. Some examples of expectations are:
- How students treat each other in the classroom
- Noise levels
- How to ask questions
- Behavior during small groups or whole group
- Lunchtime expectations
- Boundaries at recess
- Your class rules and behavior management system would also fit into this category
You will go through the same process as you did with routines, sorting each expectation according to how well it is working. For the ones that are working – great! Keep it up! For the ones that aren’t, create an action plan for improvement. Here’s an example of what that might look like:
Let’s say you have a talkative class and your current expectation for noise levels just isn’t being met. How can you encourage the class to do better with this? Maybe a visual poster that specifically marks the noise level they should be on? Or some sort of whole class incentive? You know your class best, so try to come up with a solution that will work for your students. (By the way, if this IS an area you’re struggling with, check out this blog post for some teacher tips to address this problem!)
Next, evaluate your systems. Systems are similar to routines, but involve management of materials and resources instead of students. Systems may involve your students, or it may just involve you! Examples of systems include:
- Passing out supplies to students
- Sharpening pencils
- Handing out papers
- Turning in work
- Storing frequently used items such as manipulatives or craft supplies
- Printing off work and making copies
- Grading papers
- Filing papers
Once again, you will go through the same process used in the previous two sections, evaluating what is working and what isn’t. Then, create an action plan for the things that aren’t working.
One example of this is detailed in this blog post, where I explain my pencil system for students. This solution worked well for me and solved the problem of students never having a pencil, or always needing it sharpened. That blog post has several other helpful teacher tips for creating systems that work, so check it out if you need ideas!
Next, you’re going to reflect on the various aspects of your classroom environment. This section involves anything related to your physical classroom space, such as:
- Furniture arrangement
- Seating chart
- Flexible seating
- Posters and other visuals on the walls
- Location of supplies and materials
Determine what aspects of your physical classroom environment are working well, and what needs improvement. Are all supplies accessible to students? Do you need to switch up your seating chart or table arrangement? Sometimes, your classroom setup just needs a switch-up to keep things fresh! Figure out what areas would be most beneficial to refresh.
I share a lot of organization teacher tips here if you need some new ideas! Some topics I’ve shared about are manipulative organization, math center organization, and organization for a small classroom. Or, use the search bar to the right of your screen to search for a topic!
Lastly, it’s time to evaluate your teaching techniques – that is, how you are teaching your material! This last section includes anything that involves the planning or delivery of your instruction, such as:
- Lesson planning
- Student participation/engagement level
Figure out which of these areas need improvement and how you can achieve the results you desire. If you’re facing a general problem, try to figure out what the cause is. For example, if your students don’t seem engaged, why is that? Are they bored? Are they lost? Do they need a break? Once you figure out why you are having that problem, you can better address it with your teaching techniques.
For example, maybe you’ve noticed your students aren’t engaged, but they are very fidgety. It could be that they need to get up and move around! How can you work that into your instruction? (Here are a few ideas if you need them!)
Teacher Tips for Implementation
Now that you’ve done all the brainstorming – it’s time to implement your plan! The great news is, you’ve already come up with your action steps. All you have to do now is make the necessary changes, and teach your students anything they need to know. Make a plan to revisit these things once a month or so to re-evaluate how things are working.
You didn’t think I was going to leave you with all this without a little something to help you out, did you? I’ve uploaded the printables pictured throughout this post to my Teachers Pay Teachers store for you to download. And – they’re FREE! Click here to download the resource now.
I am coming in to substitute teach long-term for the last quarter of the school year (2nd grade). It is a bit overwhelming. I, of course, want to keep a lot of what’s already been happening in the classroom, but also feel like I need to allow it to fit me. Any tips?