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The excitement of break and holiday fun is over.  Snow has come and gone and may come again.  But everywhere across the United States, classes are starting back for teachers and students.  In elementary classrooms it is generally back to business as usual.  We don’t have class changes or a new group of students.  Here are a few important things  to keep in mind as you gear up for the second semester. 

  1. Classroom Management—while you have established your rules and routines, everyone has been on a break. For some students the transition back into the classroom is seamless; but for others, a little practice will help smooth the process.  Review your classroom management system whether that be a clip chart, assertive discipline, natural consequences, or a reward system.  Review rules together and explain consequences.  Have an open discussion about what is working in the classroom and what students feel needs adjusted.  Give gentle reminders as you get back to work in the new semester.  This time spent in review will set up success for the remainder of your year.
  2. Use your resources—there are so many things that have already be done.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.  If you have a grade level team you work with divide and conquer.  Have one person put together a classroom PowerPoint or PowToon presentation and another person type up the objectives for the unit Split your curriculum and find and share activities.  Teachers Pay Teachers, Writing Fix, Illuminations, and Scholastic are all great places to start.
  3. 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) or find a support program with your state (just use Google).  Check out my article for more resources to connect with educators.  Having others to ask questions, bounce ideas, and share frustrations with will provide you a much-needed support group thorough this journey.
  4. Don’t Assume Anything—your students are each individuals.  They have different experiences, knowledge bases, home lives, and strengths.  Reflect on last semester.  What was working?  Where were the challenges?  Who do you need to connect with?  We all have students that fit the mold and thrive no matter how we are teaching.  But we also each have students that force us to think outside the box to meet their needs.  Get to know them, reflect on what worked and where/when they were successful.  Ask them what they need from you to be successful in your classroom.  Connect with them, respect them, and help them find what works.  It takes work and effort, but figuring out each student and how they interact with their environment and other learners will make classroom management easier and learning the focus in your room.
  5. Have Fun—smile, laugh, take a dance break or brain break, just have fun with your class.  Getting back into the groove after break 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.

January is a time for reflection and self-evaluation.  What do you want to accomplish this year?  What do you want students to take away from your classroom?  I always remember why I started this path 23 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 the second half of your school year is full of adventure, learning, and pleasant surprises.  I hope you get to know each of your students and value them as individuals.   I hope you find and get connected with a supportive group of positive teachers.  And most of all, I hope you have fun!

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading...

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