About Lori H Rice

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading as well as kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade since 1996. She has a passion for creativity, learning, questioning and the whole child. Her classroom is a place of acceptance and celebrating differences.

backtoschoolEvery year the back-to-schools sales start and I am excited and yet apprehensive about beginning a new school year.  This is my 17th year teaching.  Seventeen years of setting up a learning space for students and families.  Seventeen years of a new class list, Open House, Parent Night, and the first week.  Every year I am exhausted at the end of each day.  And every year things change.  You may have new curriculum, new paperwork, new systems for substitutes and you will have new families.  If you have done this a thousand times or if this is your first journey, here are the top five things you should focus on to start your year.

  1. Don’t Assume Anything—your students have not been in your classroom.  They have not been in this group.  This is a new experience for them.  Explain everything you are expecting of them from how to walk in the hallway to lining up to turning in paperwork/homework to participating in classroom discussion.  Don’t assume that after one experience they have it down.  Explain and re-explain and model what you want.  Your parents are also new to your community.  Tell them what you need from them in this partnership.  Provide them with information to be informed and help students at home.  It takes a couple of weeks but everyone will figure out how this learning environment and this group of learners work best together.
  2.  Classroom Management is Key—start the year firm.  Have a discussion with your students about your classroom management system whether that be a clip chart, assertive discipline, natural consequences, a reward system, or something else.  Come up with rules together and explain consequences.  Involving the students into this process allows them to understand the reasons behind the rules and become part of your learning community. Having a classroom that is managed well will allow you to extend your learning throughout the year.
  3. Use Your Resources—there are so many things that have already be done.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Teachers Pay Teachers http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/, Writing Fix http://writingfix.com/index.htm, Illuminations http://illuminations.nctm.org/, and Scholastic http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plans/free-lesson-plans are all great places to start.  If you have a grade level team you work with divide and conquer.  Have one person put together the PowerPoint for Parent Night and another person type up the letter to send to parents who were unable to attend.  Split your curriculum and find and share activities.  In this era of teacher we have more resources at our finger tips than we could possibly use in a life time.  Find what fits your philosophy, needs, and classroom and ask others what they use in theirs.
  4. Get Connected—you are not in this journey alone.  Find teachers in your building who are leaders, have a positive attitude, and are the problem solvers.  Join groups online or on Facebook like The Educator’s Room.  Kansas has information through their state department.  Find a support program with your state (just Google).  Having others to ask questions, bounce ideas off of, and share frustrations with will provide you a much-needed support group thorough this journey.
  5. Have Fun—smile, laugh, take a dance break, do a brain break activity, and have fun with your class.  Starting school is hard for teachers and students.  Don’t forget the importance of getting up and moving, being silly, and having fun.  Always remember why you started this important path, it’s all about the kids.

Stress is everywhere and interwoven in all we do as educators.  At the beginning of the year I always reflect on why I started this path 22 years ago when I decided to enroll in education at Kansas State University.  I wanted to work with kids.  I wanted to go to work each day and do something I love.  I wanted to teach.  I hope your year is full of adventure and pleasant surprises.  I hope you find and get connect with a supportive group of positive teachers.  And most of all, I hope you have fun!

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