A new school year is just around the corner, which means that most of us are trading in sunshine and travel for lesson plans and class rosters.

Yes, it’s a bit sad to leave summer behind, to set our morning alarms and gear up for another first day. But it’s also exciting. And it’s what makes our profession unique — every year we get a fresh start. We get learn from the mistakes of the past and start over as better teachers and leaders.

This time of year always gets me thinking about classroom and school culture. Those first few days of school set an important tone for the rest of the year, and yet we often get caught up in planning for content and leave class climate up to chance. Will this classroom be joyful or will I be bored? Will it be productive and predictable, or will expectations shift day to day? Will we work hard at important work? Or will the adults let me give up when things get tough? Will my classmates help me stretch beyond my comfort zone? Or am I in this alone? Although we think we’re teaching math and English and social studies and science those first few days, what we’re really doing is answering these questions for kids. We’re sending them messages about the type of community they’ve just joined, whether we’re intentional about it or not.

So, let’s be intentional. And teach kids three key lessons in the first week:

  1. This will be a joyful, efficient place.
  2. We will persevere through intellectually rigorous work. 
  3. You can trust this community, and we will trust you back. 

How can we achieve these three key understandings? This week’s blog posts will provide some resources and ideas to help you along.

In the spirit of continuous growth, check out this simple resource and spend 15 minutes thinking about the learning culture you created in your classroom or school last year. What was your vision? How did you establish a foundation for that vision in the first week? Throughout the rest of the year?

As we post about joyful and efficient routines, intellectual rigor and perseverance, trust, collaboration, and risk-taking, spend a few minutes each day planning to establish an even stronger learning culture this year!

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