How to Make a Good First Impression On Your Students

impression

The first day of school will soon be upon many teachers. We’ll spend the night before tossing and turning, our brains sparking with anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. We know how important it is to get the first day right. We’re setting a tone, establishing a culture, and sending messages with everything we say and do.  At the very least, we want to make a good impression on our students. They’re going to be spending more time with us than with their parents over the next ten months, and it’s important they like us enough to want to come back each day.

About a month ago, a teacher who had just been hired for her first job wrote me and asked what I do to make a good first impression on students. Here’s what I told her:

Dress Professionally

I always wear a tie on the first day, even if it’s 95 degrees and we’re going outside for an icebreaker. People judge others based on their appearances. We don’t have to like this fact to know that it’s true. Kids are people, and they are especially harsh and honest critics. Don’t look like a slob. If you want to be treated like a professional, dress like one. If you want authority (and you should), wear the uniform.

Know Your Students’ Names

When I was a kid I was a huge baseball fan. I knew stats, the value of almost every rookie card I owned, and the jersey numbers of every player on the Detroit Tigers. It’s easy to memorize stuff that’s important to you. Knowing your students names on the first day is important. To the extent possible, know your students’ names before they walk in on day one. Get hold of a yearbook, highlight the kids on your roster, and study their names and faces. You’ll be able to call on them by name that first day, and your continual use of their names will make it easier for classmates to learn them. It will also prevent you from needing to play that horrible name game that wastes time and makes students uncomfortable.

Note: If you’re looking for good icebreakers, check out this article from Cult of Pedagogy

Project Confidence and Authority

Confidence and authority come from experience, but lacking that, fake it if you must. Preparation will give you confidence and confidence lends you authority, so over-prepare. Speak assertively, even if you don’t feel assertive. Leave no doubt that you believe 100 percent in what you’re saying, even if you suspect you might be full of shit. Students want to feel like they’re being led by someone who knows what they’re doing. They also want to feel safe, and having a confident, assertive teacher that sets limits sends the message that their learning will be protected.

Smile

Part of the confidence you display can be in how relaxed you are in front of your students. Smiling breaks down barriers and conveys the message that you’re comfortable and nothing will ruffle your feathers. Smiling makes people more likable. It also makes you seem more intelligent. And you can be assertive without being a grump. When a kid asks you if they’re allowed to [fill-in-the-blank], tell them assertively, “Nope.” Then smile.

Use Your Hands When You Speak

Research shows that people like speakers who use their hands. They find them more charismatic. A study of TED Talks found a correlation between the number of hand gestures and the number of views. A cardinal sin is putting your hands in your pockets. Even if you don’t gesture, keep your hands visible. It makes you seem more open and approachable.

Make Eye Contact

A problem I had early in my career was not looking at my students. I’d look over them, but not actually at them. Good speakers make a personal connection to listeners by looking them in the eyes as they talk. Try to make eye contact for three seconds with a student before moving on to another one. Looking at your students sends two important messages:

  1. You’re talking for their benefit, not just to hear yourself.
  2. You’re “with it.” Students will realize you’ll notice if they’re not paying attention.

Show Vulnerability

One way to quickly connect with others is to share something personal. Showing vulnerability makes you authentic. You’ll immediately humanize yourself. Nobody likes people who act like they’re perfect. Be willing to tell your students something that embarrasses you a little. You might start by telling them how nervous you are. Since they are nervous too, this will help them relate to you and begin to erode walls that exist between teachers and students.

What else do you do to establish rapport, build relationships, and make a great first impression on your students? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.

_________________________

Other First Day Advice:

3 Common First Day Mistakes from Smart Classroom Management

Overcoming the Back-to-School Teacher Jitters… by Angela Watson

Classroom Management: 4 Keys to Starting the Year Off Right from Cult of Pedagogy with a heavy assist from Michael Linsin

 

7 Tricks to Keep Yourself (& Your Students) Engaged After Lunch

tired

 

GUEST POST by Shundalyn Allen, University Instructor & Contributor to Wisewire

What time of day are your students most disruptive? When asked this question, many teachers identified the transition from lunch back to the classroom. Tiredness after meals is common because energy diverts to digestion. How can you boost your energy after lunch? Here are seven tips to boost your energy and keep your students engaged after eating.

1. Get Moving

When blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, you feel energized and alert. Get your blood circulating with some light exercise. Walking around your building or stretching for a few moments are simple ways to incorporate physical activity into your day.

2. De-stress

Exercise is not a one-trick pony. It directly affects stress. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that make you feel good. Don’t panic if you don’t have a lot of spare time or don’t feel fit enough for a high-impact workout. The Mayo Clinic reports that three ten-minute walks can take the place of one thirty-minute walk. You might even incorporate walking into a work duty. For instance, if you supervise recess or lunch, you can move around the playground, gym, or cafeteria as you monitor the students.

3. Stay Hydrated

Water prevents dehydration, which causes fatigue and makes it difficult for your body to operate properly. Drinking plenty of water will help your body maintain a state of alertness. For an additional boost, add a little lemon juice to your water bottle. Studies have shown that the smell of lemon promotes concentration, memory, and accuracy. In fact, it’s common in Japan to diffuse lemon-scented essential oils through the ventilation systems of businesses because it stimulates the mind while calming emotions.

Bonus: It tastes good! Track and maintain your daily water intake with this app.

4. See Yourself Where You Want to Be

Tired of being tired? Practice visualization by creating a mental picture of a desired outcome. For instance, teachers who mentally immerse themselves in a scene of a successful lunch-to-lesson transition increase the likelihood that they will experience the same smooth transition in real life. How can you do it? Picture your students’ engaged faces, the sounds of them pulling out their chairs to sit down, an intriguing question or problem written on the white erase board, and so on.

Another type of visualization involves envisioning each step of a process. Athletes do it all the time, but studies reveal that it also benefits the average person. In one study published by the Library of Medicine, thirty young volunteers exercised or visualized using their muscles. At the end of twelve weeks, both groups were stronger. The researchers concluded: “The mental training employed by this study enhances the cortical output signal, which drives the muscles to a higher activation level and increases strength.” In other words, when people imagine physical activity, the brain’s responds almost as if they were exercising in real life. The benefits of visualization aren’t limited to physical tasks. What an ideal option for teachers with little time for a full workout! Educators who incorporate visualization skills, such as guided imagery, into their lessons notice that students focus more on the subject matter. Will you try it out in your lesson plan?

5. Implement a Routine

Have you heard of the PAX Good Behavior Game (GBG)? According to the Game’s website, players work towards shared goals, cooperate with one another, and “self-regulate.” These skills translate to more engaged learning and significantly less time-wasting disruptions. Research indicates that the GBG reduces aggressive and disruptive behaviors in elementary school classrooms.

Even upper-grade classrooms flourish with an effective routine. Structure facilitates calm and focus. Whatever re-centering activity you choose—from answering a writing prompt in a journal to solving an equation or watching a short video—students should know the daily expectations. That way, they can begin working on the task as soon as they return to the classroom. And remember, routines shouldn’t be boring. Anticipating a fun video or an active game will give everyone something to look forward to in the afternoon.

6. Tap into Animal Energy

Playing with animals releases oxytocin, a hormone that inhibits stress and promotes focus and tranquility, according to a research study by the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. You probably can’t bring your dog to school, but some schools do allow small classroom pet, such as a goldfish, hamster, or lizard. Even watching the birds outside your window or installing a fuzzy bunny screensaver on your laptop can raise your spirits. Researcher Jessica Gall Myrick discovered that even people who viewed cat videos on the Internet experienced heightened energy levels and an increase in positive emotions.

7. Take a Nap

In Mediterranean cultures, it’s traditional to take a short nap called a siesta after the midday meal. Does sleep affect stress levels? Yes, according to SEMERGEN (Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians), brief naps improve heart function, mental alertness, and recall. One caveat, however, is that the benefits only appear if you nap on a regular basis. You might dismiss the idea of taking a nap at work. Who has the time? However, sleep expert Sara C. Mednick says that “you can get incredible benefits from [as little as] 15. . .minutes of napping.” Can you arrange your schedule to include a brief power nap during your free period or take a short nap after school before you start grading? If so, you can stave off the after-lunch drag.

If your students are rowdy after lunch and your energy is at its all-day low, you might find it extremely tough to get your class on task. Don’t lose hope. With a few small tweaks to your afternoon routine, you can turn your most challenging time into your favorite period of the day.
Shundalyn Allen is a University Instructor & Contributor to Wisewire. She started her career as a high-school French/ESL teacher in 2004. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s helping her clients, such as Grammarly and Wisewire, to provide engaging and practical content for their readers.

One Way Teachers Can Fight Exhaustion Before It Starts

procedures

One of the best things about being a teacher is we get to start anew each fall. With the school year around the corner, exhaustion is probably far from your mind. After a restorative summer, you are likely itching to get started. You have new ideas you picked up at conferences, new strategies for dealing with behavior you can’t wait to try, new technology in your classroom, new colleagues or principals, and what feels like a new lease on your career. The stress and fatigue you felt at the end of last year has drifted away like a dandelion fluff on the summer breeze.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for raining on your vacation and dousing your enthusiasm.

The stress and exhaustion will be coming back unless you do something different this year.

There are many steps you can take, all of which I outline in my forthcoming book, Exhausted, but there is one you must absolutely do if you hope to have more energy at the end of your work days. And you must start before students show up on the first day of school. What is it?

Plan and Perfect As Many Procedures As Possible

Every teacher knows the importance of teaching, modeling, and practicing classroom routines until students have them down. Teachers who want to avoid student confusion and the resultant behavior problems know they must establish procedures for nearly everything that happens in their classrooms. We also know that well-executed procedures make our classrooms more efficient: students get more done when routines are followed.

What many teachers don’t realize is that having routines can help with their own fatigue.

One of the major causes of teacher exhaustion is decision fatigue. Every time you make a decision, you use some of your limited store of self-regulatory resources, often called willpower. Willpower is like a muscle in that it gets fatigued the more you use it. Each decision you make is like another rep in the gym. And just like your muscles, the strength of your willpower fades with more and more decisions.

Teachers make a ton of decisions, which is one reason they come home feeling drained. Although you intended to go to the gym, you can’t get off the couch. You meant to cook a healthy dinner, but it was easier to drive through McDonald’s. You planned to finally check those math tests, but you can’t bring yourself to even think about work. Those are the results of decision fatigue.

One trick to coming home with more energy is to make fewer decisions. You do this is by establishing habits. It’s estimated that 40% of the actions you take in a day are the result of habits, from hitting the snooze twice, to putting your left leg in your pants first, to the route you take to work, to ignoring most of the menu at a favorite restaurant because you always order the same two or three items. There are many choices for which we don’t use mental energy because they are ingrained as habits.

A procedure is a habit you want students to internalize. When they learn it, it saves them and you from deciding.

Instead of students asking you where to turn in their papers and you having to decide how you’d like them to do so every single time, you establish a routine for students to turn in their work. Instead of deciding each time whether it’s okay for a student to get out of their seat to grab a Kleenex or sharpen a pencil, establish set times during the day for these activities and teach routines so that students don’t have to ask you and you don’t have to decide. Instead of deciding for a student what he or she can do when she’s finished with her work, make a poster of all possible options ahead of time.

Small decisions add up. The fewer of them you make, the less tired you will be.

Be proactive by going through your entire school day and deciding ahead of time, while you have the energy that summer provides, which components of your day can be turned into a routine. If you find yourself making too many decisions once the school year starts, ask yourself if a new procedure is needed. Figure out ways to decide ahead of time so you don’t have to make decision after decision in the moment. Your future self will thank you.

Here is the list of procedures I teach:

procedures

 

 

 

 

 

I teach third grade, so not all will apply. Feel free to make a copy and change what you need to.

For help on how to teach routines, check out these posts by Michael Linsin:

How to Teach Routines
How to Use Music to Make Routines More Fun and Effective
How to Use the Power of One Strategy to Improve Behavior

__________________________

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/584/decision200602-15vohs.pdf)

For more information about willpower and decision fatigue, read the book Willpower.

Also read:

Why Teachers Are So Tired

5 End of the Year Classroom Management Tips

end of year

One of my favorite education blogs is Michael Linsin’s Smart Classroom Management. Yesterday, he published a post titled, “How to Avoid Losing Control the Final Days of the School Year.” Like always, he offers solid advice, but his tips are somewhat general (possibly because he does a better job of writing for the entire spectrum of K-12 teachers than I do). Michael’s post made me think about some of the specific things I do to keep a handle on student behavior during the last few weeks of the year.

Less Me. More Them.

For the most part, my students like me. They respect me. They say nice things, make an occasional card for my bulletin board, and tell me they’ll miss me next year. That doesn’t mean they want to listen to me anymore. It’s a long year, and my students are sick and tired of my voice. I don’t blame them. I’m tired of me, too. Since I know listening is a challenge for them this time of year, I talk a lot less. Instead of spoken directions, I write them on the board or in Google Classroom. Instead of delivering lectures, I assign text. Rather than teach a particular math strategy, I show a video of someone else teaching it. Mostly, I try to keep them busy with work instead of asking them to listen to me.

Give In

Talking tends to go off the charts this time of year. Instead of fighting it by making students listen to me or by asking students to work quietly at their desks, I allow them to work with partners or in small groups on nearly every assignment. Since they’re going to talk anyway, give them something academic to talk about. I also require a certain amount of the work to be finished before I give the class a break. As I wrote in this post, I give my students five-minute breaks throughout the day when they can pretty much do what they want. But at the end of the year, some kids don’t want to work. So I set a timer for all to see and tell them that if their group doesn’t have x amount of work done when the timer goes off, we’ll skip the break, and I’ll provide more time to get the work done instead.

Recommit to the Rules

The embarrassing truth is that student behavior slips at the end of the year because I have allowed it to. While the same rules are still hanging in the same spot as they have all year, I started to selectively enforce them. Whereas in September I would nail any kid who leaves her seat during instruction without getting permission, I now see that Kylie has gotten up to get a Kleenex during the math lesson and instead of moving her clip down, I justify her behavior (“Well, what’s wrong with getting a Kleenex when you need one?”) and allow it. I become permissive, and students take advantage of it.

A simple way to regain control then is to tell your students that you’ve screwed up. Don’t blame them for a problem you caused. Explain that you’ve not been holding them accountable for some of the rules and that from here on out, you’re committed to enforcing your rules. Pick a couple of the most frequently broken rules and explain that you’ll be nailing students for violating them every time. Then do it. Follow through with the predetermined consequence without fail. You’ll see a quick decrease in those behaviors as long you do what you say you’re going to do.

Reward Tolerance

Familiarity breeds contempt. A lot of end-of-year behavior stems from students just plain being sick of each other. They’ve been together for many months and where they once showed patience and understanding and a desire to get along, they now quickly tattle or fire off a rude comment.

To regain the tolerance they showed each other earlier in the year, reward it. At the end of the day, have students share about tolerance they witnessed during the day. Reward the students who displayed the tolerance. Students may struggle with this at first, but when prizes are offered, they usually respond. They’ll be more tolerant in the hopes that someone notices. They’ll be more aware of their friends’ tolerance so they can earn them rewards. They’ll likely game the system — friends will report on friends’ incidents of tolerance so that both can get prizes, but that’s okay. Yes, it’s manipulative and Alfie Kohn would surely disapprove but 1. They’re not getting the reward themselves, which means their actions (even the scheming ones) benefit somebody else, which is a nice thing to encourage, and 2. You’re trying to get through to the end of the year. Pretty much anything goes at this point.

Head Down, Keep Going

This is a hard one, but it’s important. Don’t focus on the fact that the year is almost over. Don’t count the days. Don’t cross them off a calendar. Don’t pop balloons for each newly completed day until there’s just one hanging. Don’t discuss next year at all. Don’t remind students that they should be better at things because they’ve been in school for 165 days now. You may be excited about the impending summer vacation, but some of your students aren’t.

Some of your students will be going home to horrors you can’t imagine. They’re losing the one place in the world where they feel safe and accepted. Less dramatically, some are upset about not seeing their friends for three months. Some will miss you. Some are nervous about moving to middle school or high school or maybe a new town altogether.

Change can cause anxiety, and your constant reminders about this coming change can lead to student emotions which can lead to poor behavior. Keep teaching. Keep plugging away. Stick to your routines and schedules. Teach right up to the last day as if it’s the middle of October. Before you know it, the last day will be here and then you can celebrate.

One Simple Way to Steal Time for Grading

steal time

My next book is about how teachers can take home less student work to grade. Part of accomplishing this worthy goal is finding ways to grade papers during the school day. There are obvious times like planning periods, recess, or, if you’re really dedicated and/or desperate, lunch. But I like to use those times for other responsibilities (and in the case of lunch, to eat). That leaves grading while students are in the room.

A lot of teachers never grade papers when students are in the room. They feel like when students are in their presence they need to be actively engaged with them. They must be instructing, or working with small groups, monitoring, or assessing. After all, they reason, so many kids need so much, how can they ever justify grading papers?

They also worry about what others will think. What if the principal walks in and finds them at their desks checking math tests? What if the reading specialist comes in to work with at-risk readers? Would she look down her nose or think the teacher is lazy or lacking in dedication?

And there’s the guilt many teachers seem to carry around like a free tote bag at a reading conference. Guilt comes from violating our own beliefs. Since most teachers believe they should do everything they can to help students, taking time out of the day to score student work doesn’t feel right.

But if you want to reclaim your personal life and stop taking so much work home, you’ll need to carve out time while students are in the room to grade papers. There are many ways to do this that are educationally sound and good for kids. One simple way is to give your students breaks.

I started giving five-minute breaks because I hate managing transitions. Conventional classroom management wisdom says that teachers should train students to execute transitions between subjects with crisp, quiet efficiency to maximize every minute of the day. Teachers are warned that sloppy transitions lead to misbehavior and wasted time.

But I always hated demanding these kinds of transitions. They made me feel like a drill sergeant. I couldn’t help notice that with the exception of the military, adults rarely transitioned seamlessly from one activity to another.

So instead of quickly switching from one subject to the next, I give my students breaks. Now, after students have sat through a 20-minute lesson and worked for another twenty minutes on their math, I announce a five-minute break. Students can play games on their Chromebooks, read, draw, or just hang out and talk. I let them know when time is running out and count down so they’re back at their seats and ready when the five minutes are up.

Breaks are good for everybody. They allow us to recharge, change our mood, engage with others, laugh, stretch, and refocus. Science backs it up. A 2011 University of Illinois study showed that participants who experienced diversions once per hour did better at a task than those who plowed ahead with no breaks.

Breaks also help with student behavior. Because my students know I’m going to give them choice time on their Chromebooks a few times each day, they’re less likely to sneak on to a game site during work time. Breaks can also help students get over frustration. This morning I was picking jobs for our class lemonade stand. One student was upset because he wasn’t selected. If we would have moved into more academic work, his negative attitude would have led to a lack of attention and a poor effort on the assignment. Instead, we took a five-minute break. I could almost see his thinking: He could sit there and stew and lose the five minutes of free time, or he could do something fun. He chose to play a game. By the time we resumed work, he had forgotten all about his disappointment over the lemonade stand.

Breaks also help me. They free me up to do some of the work I used to take home. While I sometimes use the time to get ready for the next subject, I’ve also used student break time to work on my newsletter to parents, write sub plans, and check student papers. Throughout the course of the day, my students usually get three or four breaks, which means I get 15-20 minutes of work time. And it’s not as if I’m checking Facebook. Writing newsletters, making sub plans, and checking papers are part of my job. I should do them while I’m being paid.

There are teachers and administrators who will read the above and cringe at the “lost instructional time.” They’re hypocrites, and you can prove it to them.

The next time you attend a long professional development presentation with one of your critics and the presenter announces a break, interrupt her and ask if the break can be skipped. While everyone stares daggers at you, explain that you value your learning time too much to take a break. Tell her you don’t want to “waste” a single minute.

See how that goes over.

 

Old Stuff:

Why Teachers Should Help Less

Teach Like a Cat

6 Ways to Spread Happiness in the Classroom

 

Join the Teacher Habits Club by CLICKING HERE. It’s like all those music clubs from back in the day that used to send you 12 CDs for a buck. The only difference is I’ll send you emails and it won’t cost you anything.