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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Every Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET, I host New Teacher Chat (#ntchat) on Twitter. It's a time for new and pre-service teachers, as well as supportive administrators and experienced teachers, to gather online and have discussions about topics that are practitioner focused and supportive for the soon-to-be teacher.

A recent topic was one that is always near and dear to my heart -- back to school -- tips to make your first day/week/year great.

This time of year can be particularly stressful for new teachers as they embark on the first steps of their careers. Our chat about starting the year, which armed new teachers with supportive strategies to avoid the back-to-school jitters, was engaging and collaborative.

5 Questions to Spark the Conversation

The chat started with my posing five questions to engage our participants in the conversation. These five questions helped frame the conversation in such a way that new teachers could not only see the advice from experienced educators, but also chime in with their own insights.

Let's break down the questions, then, I’ll share what I think were some of the best tweets captured in the chat. Be prepared to be inspired by some great ideas!

  1. Share three things you will do to prepare yourself for the first day of school

    @Got_Legos: Prepare a tentative outline of the first few weeks, look at previous lessons and fix up my classroom.
    @GeorgetteNairn: Send out postcards to make that first connection with students, and make sure to take a little time for myself so I am energized.
    @TeachingWithSoul: Organize my classroom, prepare a letter to send to parents, have my 1st week lesson plans ready!
    @MLBertram: Getting great books to read to the class those first few days, writing welcome cards for each child and getting my class blog ready!
  2. Share three things you will do to help to get to know your STUDENTS in the first week of school

    @Michelle_Horst: Have a plan and stay organized, start community-building activities, make a friendly call home to parents.
    @MrsPal: Ask your students about themselves, ask their parents about their kids, do something creative with VoiceThread, blogging, and Skype.
    @TeachingWithSoul: Memorize all their names, take photos of all my kids to have as a reference, invite them &/or their parents for a time to chat before the actual back to school nite visit!
    @Michelle_Horst: Do an "All About Me" project in which students decide what they'd like the rest of us to know about them!
  3. Share three things you will do to support a POSITIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT in the first week of school

    @TeachingWithSoul: Select a few meaningful rules for success. Involve the students in the discussion. Have a weekly classroom meeting.
    @RentonL: Share our classroom manifesto, the #youmatter manifesto, and end each day with "highlights."
    @BJTeach_4th: Laugh and joke with my students, play music and have a joke/riddle of the day!
    @yoMsDunn: Allow students to help create the classroom norms or "rules," give them ownership in their room.
  4. Share three things you will do to support collaboration and engagement with PARENTS in the first week of school

    @Got_Legos: Use a social media (blog or Facebook) outlet to get info to them, make a positive phone call home, ask parents what their kids are like at home to get their insight.
    @SuzanneWhisler: Set up a class blog, page or wiki. Give them my email address & phone number. Communicate as much as possible!
    @TeachingWithSoul: Prepare a letter/email to send to parents. Encourage classroom visits. Use @remind101 to keep them posted on classroom events!
    @FlourishingKids: Do a Welcome blog post with ways to reach me, Smile and be friendly when I see them, encourage questions!
  5. What will you do to take care of YOURSELF in these first few weeks as you head back to school?

    @MsNJH23: Set clearer boundaries on my time and learn to say "no" sometimes. Balance brings creativity back to teaching.
    @SuzanneWhisler: Get plenty of rest, eat healthy & spend time with family.
    @MoTechTrainer: You will be tired. More tired than you have probably ever been. Find time for a little exercise, it helps.
    @EatTeachBlog: Don't give up on the things you do for fun. Those are the things that will be your release.

So what do you think of the outcome of this Back to School chat?

I felt it was a vibrant conversation that was met with great enthusiasm. All of the participants left with a sense of the back-to-school excitement and the knowledge they have a virtual team of supportive colleagues behind them.

The work of supporting new teachers to step into the first year of practice isn't easy, but it's essential. Helping them avoid some of the back-to-school jitters makes the transition from university pre-service student to full-fledged teacher less intimidating. And doing this in a collaborative structure, such as an online chat, will always be a must.

Now it's your turn!

Join us in this collaboration and add your own responses to one or all of the questions. You might just be able to support a new teacher who is about to begin their first year in the profession.

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