Tips for Teachers on the First Day Back

August 9, 2021

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time, but it can also be quite anxiety-provoking for many students. Some students are attending school for the first time and others are moving into a new classroom with a teacher and peers they do not yet know.

In the 2021–2022 school year, beginning of the year anxieties may be magnified, as many students and their teachers will be returning to the classroom for the first time in more than a year. Here is a list of five things that teachers should consider doing on the first day of class.

Ensure that the classroom is warm and inviting physically and psychologically.
Use the day to get to know your students; it is important to make personal connections with each of them.
Help the students get to know each other; they need to feel safe with you AND with their peers.
Introduce students to the classroom routines in fun and interesting ways. Even students returning to school will need to be re-socialized to the academic environment.
Do not feel that you need to jump into academic subjects right away. Keep academic demands to a minimum with an emphasis on what students have already covered, recognizing that there will be learning loss for many. 

It is important to remember that the pandemic is not over and you will have students who are in very different places academically, behaviorally, emotionally, and socially. Some students will have experienced little more than less contact with their friends and others will come from homes where they lost family members.

As a teacher, it will be important to model patience and compassion well into the school year. Although these tips are written for the first day, you should expect to continue to use some of them for several weeks, and maybe across the entire school year. Learning is a social and interactive process that is affected positively by engagement and curiosity.

And remember: you can always reach out to the school psychologist, the school counselor, or colleagues for support and ideas. 

– Professor Frank C. Worrell is the faculty director of the GSE’s top ranked School Psychology program,
and is the 2021 President-Elect of the American Psychological Association (APA).
His latest book is “The Cambridge Handbook of Applied School Psychology,”
co-edited with Professor Tammy L. Hughes of Duquesne University,
and Assistant Professor Dante D. Dixson of Michigan State University.