These days much attention has been focused on the science for a more perfect form of education delivery. Here, a straight narrative without considering other creative possibilities makes it difficult to integrate all points of view and different modes of delivery.
However, there are some basics to be followed.
On the first day of school, a good many students are ready and willing — and despite their own denials—they are eager to learn. How do we keep this eagerness alive through each term and year?
Whoever and wherever you are as a teacher, there is a younger person who thinks you are perfect.
Teachers must then create a positive classroom environment where an expectation of high achievement exists.
There is some work that will never be done if you don’t do them. The following tips may be used to help teachers and school heads begin each new term positively:
Students need to see and feel that teachers are ready and excited about the new term. Smile! If you are not happy to be in school, how can you expect your students to be happy?
If you act like you don’t want to be there, how can you expect them to want to be there, and with you?
Remember the lyrics from the song: “When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you.”
The importance of setting a positive tone at the beginning of each new term cannot be stressed enough.
Despite their grumblings, students truly want to learn, and they speak unfavourably about classes where they sit around and do nothing much. Make each classroom a place of learning where each teacher is upbeat.
A positive tone is infectious, so say “Please” and “Thank you” often to the students. Where expected behaviour is modelled, they are more likely to be emulated.
Learn students’ names quickly and remember to grow their confidence and resourcefulness by involving them openly.
As an example, do not complain to students about all the things you don’t have. Focus on what you have, and how they can participate by filling in the gaps and providing what they can.
Like a countervailing force, the busier teachers are — in doing everything by themselves—the lazier the students get and detach themselves from the class proceedings.
Have lesson plans and schemes of work ready for the first day. A well-planned day will make things go a lot smoother.
Remember the 6 Ps: Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance! Be ready for the first day.
Ideally Schemes of Work / Weekly Forecasts have to be displayed visibly on bulletin boards in each classroom.
On the first day, it will be appropriate to spend time going over the topics to be discussed during the term.
And even begin to assign responsibilities: Who will lead particular discussions, bring in particular materials, control distribution and collecting of materials, take attendance (if they are trained to do so).
Establish leadership teams. Have an agenda on the board before the students arrive. An agenda — and possibly posters about topics during the term — creates an atmosphere that good things are going to happen.
In the lesson notes, there is a tendency for many teachers to focus unduly on what the “teacher will” do.
Emphasis should rather be on what “students will” do. Remember, it is the learner who has to be dominant, not the teacher. Engage students and they will achieve more if you expect the best from them.
Make your schools and classrooms physically safe places for all students. Clear the hallways of broken chairs, desks, tables, etc.
Avoid heaping materials on top of cupboards as they may drop and hurt someone. Likewise, be cognisant of psychological safety.
Develop the empathy to see things from your students’ perspective in an effort to detect and prevent anxiety provoking conditions.
For example, humiliating or embarrassing situations may so pile up that a student comes to hate or fear everything connected with school.
Strong positive experiences displace negative tendencies. Show the youth that you take interest in their well-being and that they “belong” to the class, and in the group.
On the first day, define an appropriate student posture in answering questions. Pupils need to be discouraged from speaking with their hands (gesturing), from persistently pointing at objects, and so on.
Help them to find the right words for the objects they tend to point to in talking; for lower classes it may mean posting the names on the objects in the class.
For the listening mode, they need to sit upright, with their backs straight to ease the flow of energy. Slouching and other inappropriate postures need to be avoided; they impair the correct growth of spine.
For new teachers, that first day of school is the source of anxiety and excitement in “flying solo”. Be in class on time.
Attend to personal needs ahead of time. Get your room organised. Have all materials ready for the first day so that you don’t have to search for anything when the class begins.
Make sure that classroom desks are neatly arranged, and floors are cleared of trash at all times, not after the class or the next morning.
Cleanliness is next to godliness at all times, not sometimes.
Remember the COVID-19 protocols: Masks, hand sanitisers and appreciable distances where possible.
The writer is a trainer of teachers, a leadership coach, a motivational speaker and quality education advocate.