Inspired Ideas
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Inspired Ideas

Key Ingredients for the Beginning of the School Year

By Stephanie Howell and Tara Ruckman, Educators

Think of the beginning of the year as a recipe. You have key ingredients and you have some spices to level up your flavor. If you have all the key ingredients, kids are going to dive into that meal, take a big bite, and keep coming back for more of whatever you are cooking. On the flip side of that, if you are missing any key ingredients, it might be likely that there are going to be some students that decide not to take a bite of what you are cooking, throw it in the trash, and never want to eat in your class again. Chef Ramsay is going to be booting you off his show if the key ingredients are missing.

Let’s get cooking on a recipe for a successful beginning of the year changes, choices, culture, and classroom management.

The Protein: Changes

Protein is the main stand-out part of your dish. No dish goes without a protein, and even if you are not a meat eater, look out for the tofu. In a classroom recipe, the protein is change! Every year, we have to have change and it’s an integral part of our dish. If there is no change, there is no growth. We often think of change as systematic — what are the changes in curriculum, what is the systematic change, and how can we improve systematically. Instead, think about the big picture. Do any big businesses go straight to a systematic change? No, they don’t, because change isn’t easy and only one-third of change is usually successful because employees don’t want to change their current methods. However, you have the power to focus on a classroom change, instead of a systematic change.

Now, this doesn’t mean stressing out and having a thousand changes in the classroom, because you only need one type of protein in your recipe. Take a look at student reflections from last year, and administrator feedback, and recognize to truly grow, we must continually change and grow with education. Pick one thing that you know that could really support your growth as an educator and what could help your transformation. Kevin Moran Blue Collar Millionaire says, “Choose one thing, pursue it and execute relentlessly.” That is the protein of your recipe.

The Carbohydrates: Choices

The potatoes and rice — no recipe is complete without a few carbs, right? Or is it? The point is choices. The start of the year has so many choices. Making a choice on what beginning of the year activities will be important to you as a teacher to help create relationships and start guiding your teaching practice. You get to choose different activities to get to know your students and how you will step up your digital space and physical space.

If you are not planning on looking at the data of a true colors assessment, maybe an enneagram is something you are interested in. Make the choice, and know that what your beginning of the year looks like might not be what others look like based on their classroom needs. Carbs or no carbs, it’s your choice. There’s no need to model your beginning of the year like anyone else unless it’s suitable to your classroom vision.

Fill out this Google Form to receive access to the beginning of the year checklist and back-to-school make-and-take that a community of educators has gathered and created to make a successful back-to-school experience.

The Vegetables: Classroom Culture

Many people are not vegetable eaters, they are meat and potato kinds of people. We sometimes skip the healthy part of the dinner because it doesn’t taste as good as the other parts of the meal. For you to stay healthy, vegetables are important. That’s culture! What type of culture do businesses have? We strive to work in an environment that promotes positivity and lets us know our voice matters. This environment can happen in the classroom. Spend time at the start of the year to build a positive culture in your classroom. Take the time to create a vision or goals and focus on student well-being, social connections, meaning, and purpose.

The Flavor: Classroom Management

No recipe is complete without some flavor!

The flavor, do you want to be sour, sweet, tart, or spicy? Pick one and roll with it. We never want to be considered a classroom with no flavor! A classroom with no flavor = a classroom that gets chewed up and spit out. Envision your classroom management plan and write it down — this is your flavor. Most teachers do not have flavor at the start. Instead, they have a dash here and sprinkle there at the start, then when things get chaotic and bubbling over they wish they took the time in August to add the flavor because more students would be diving into your recipe and engaging in your content.

The moral of the story is to spice up your recipe with a good classroom management plan. A dash of positive reinforcement and a spoon full of authentic experiences will get the students increased engagement and decreased behavior issues because you hooked them on your cooking from the start!

To receive some ingredients mentioned above fill out this Google Form:

For more, see:

PUBLIC Beginning the Year Checklist- @mrshowell24

Back To School -Make and Take

Classroom Culture Writing @mrs_truckman

If you want to go more in-depth on Kickstarting your Classroom Culture check out Episode 20 available on August 17: Control the Chaos Edu.

Stephanie is the CEO of Gold EDU, a founder of Global GEG, and the EdTech Lead for Pickerington Local Schools. She is key to the embedding and implementation of EdTech tools across her schools and organizations. She has a masters in Curriculum and Instruction and is an adjunct professor for Ashland University.

She enjoys creating resources to support the needs of teachers and students that increases engagement and levels up tier 1 instruction. She builds relationships with co-planning and co-teaching. She loves sharing her resources and connecting with educators across the world via social media and professional learning. When she is not busy sharing her resources and connecting with other professionals, she is spending time with her husband and son.

Tara is currently Certified Crisis Prevention Intervention Instructor, Youth, Teen, and Trauma Informed Yoga Educator, Resident Educator Program Coordinator and an Academic Behavior Coach for fourteen schools. In addition to her roles in the public school system she is also an adjunct Professor for Ashland University.

Tara is key to embedding and implementation of Tier 1, 2, and 3 behavior interventions. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and a Master’s in Special Education is her education. She enjoys dissecting intense behaviors through functional behavior assessments and turning them into comprehensive behavioral intervention plans to support student progress. She also loves the pro-active teaching of desired behaviors for students that need that support!

When she is not busy talking about behavior analysis, you will find her trying to show the people she loves how they are her #1!

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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

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