George Lucas Educational Foundation

Is it too soon to think about the First Day of School?

Is it too soon to think about the First Day of School?

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I'm only going into my 2nd year of teaching, so excuse me for a being a little anxious. I knew this summer would be spent going over the problems I had with behavior in my first year and how I would correct it this year.

Please share your own ideas about establishing behavior on that very first day or week.

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Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

You're right, Rob, that we need to make our expectations clear to our students, both by telling them and having them practice them. I also have a large flip chart in the front of my room with some behavior guidelines for various times: one page for what to do upon entering the class, another for what to do when finished with an assignment, another for how to write a proper heading on a paper, and another page for what's expected when a substitute is in charge. It's handy to just point to the chart to redirect a student.

Rob Delisa's picture

Thanks for the very useful feedback, Laura. As a new teacher, I had a difficult time trying to even know what my expectations for behavior should be. You really gotta get in the room and get yourself all beat-up first, I guess. :)

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Yes, so true! And that's why your next year will be SO MUCH BETTER than last! So many times you will find yourself thinking, "Aha! I already know how to handle this because it ISN'T THE FIRST TIME!" :)

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Classroom management sets up the learning environment, so you should be mindful as to how you want the "weather" in your class. A very stringent and strict class might hold back kids from taking risks and a very loose class might just be too loud and distracting for most. It's finding that sweet spot, which takes lots of time and effort by the teacher.

1. Don't think you're taking too much time on teaching, modeling, and re-teaching classroom environment expectations. It's very important. I believe a good environment will lead to learning, even by accident.

2. Have very few rules. When I started teaching I had about 7 very specific rules (Walk in the hallway. Raise you hand when you want to speak, etc...) The students created the rules. Now I only have 4 more character-based rules. Think-Work Hard- Be Kind-Create. And under those rules we list all the ways that you can Be Kind, Work Hard, Think and Create. So, everything is covered, but the kids only need to remember 4.

3. Have tailor made consequences. I'm a believer of the consequence should match the student. I never list consequences. If there needs to be a consequence, I discuss it with the student and parents are always notified.

4. Setting up a classroom environment can be trying on your patience. It's important that you don't abandon an idea for behavior modification just because it's not working after a week of trial. It's easy to always try to change your ideas when they fail right away, don't do it. Be persistent even if you think the idea is not effective. Give it a couple weeks or more. It' working more than you think it is.

Classroom Management is an art. You can read all of the blogs and books in the world, but still feel like nothing is working. This is normal because of you are dealing with humans that change all of the time. It's important that you not only try stuff out, but watch other teachers manage classrooms (if you can) and decide what techniques work for you and your students.

This will take time, so be patient and hang in there.

Here's a blog I wrote on some classroom management techniques and advice.

Here's a good book/DVD on classroom systems that will tighten your environment.

Good Luck!


Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

LOL, Gaetan, that's some terrific advice for new teachers. You might want to write that up as a separate post. :-)

Scott Cantrell's picture


I love your short, general rules and then having the students complete the specific details of the rules. The students will often create rules with a higher standard than what one would think. Thanks for sharing.

AmberSanti's picture

Well put! It's so important to take the time to reflect- that's how we get better every year. As for me- I always have a script for the whole first day- and sometimes the first week. I've been teaching almost 10 years and I still get nervous! Good luck to you this year!

Tami Manley's picture

RELAX! Each year will get easier. Pretty soon you will be getting all of the students that others, say, "Just wait!" Respect them and they will respect you. Don't try to be in charge of everything! Make a safe and loving environment for them to feel safe in!
Let the kids tell you what they think will be good rules for the classroom. Then agree together. ADD one more rule that may not be mentioned. Memorize the poem, "WARNING" by Shel Silverstien and win them over! Add that one to your list of rules and they will love you for the rest of the year. Have fun! Let your students know there is a time for being silly and a time for learning and being serious in order to get the job done! Then, there will be time for fun along with learning once you earn their respect! Good luck!

Rob Delisa's picture

This is such a nice and uplifting message. It's my second year, but I am at a new school and have already been a little nervous about this new year. I really needed to hear this. Please keep in touch:

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