Woo-hoo! Day One begins tomorrow at my school! It’s a time filled with anticipation and enjoy, as well as a bit of untethered energy.  Capture and channel that energy by building community but also with a careful eye on your long and short-term goals – your rock and hopes.
Short term, the primary goals are to build a sense of belonging and significance, while learning routines and having some fun.  Long term, that’s a more complicated story, but you have the whole year to dive into content. Start off slow, getting to know each other and what aspirations each person, as well as the community, hold.  And don’t forget to play outside. Invest in some time playing games, learning names,  having fun.  Remember, it’s often a physically exhausting transition back to school and some exercise and fresh air might be what your group needs to make it through the long school day.

With an understanding of child development and the mission of your school, you should be able to articulate your own philosophy, ideas and hopes for the school year. If you haven’t  already sat down to ponder these long-range plans, they step away from your device, go for a walk or sit in silence for a bit and do so. (I’ll wait while you ponder.)

  • What kind of environment to you see?
  • What time of relationships do you hope these students develop? what skills will they need to do the work?
  • How will this work evolve?
  • How will your tribe communicate?
  • How will they be supported and nourished?
  • How will YOU be supported and nourished?
  • How will you and your students know you are making progress along this path?

Once you have this vision, write yourself some specific, actionable goals.  Remember the old rocks/sand story (don’t know it? Click here if you don’t.) Consider writing down a  few “rocks” or big picture goals you want to achieve each week. Be sure these are realistic and manageable.   All the other “stuff” in life can then fit in around these priorities.  As teachers, that jar often gets shaken up a bit, but keep those big rock in place. I was skeptical of this process at first, being one of those type-A, over-planning, overly zealous kind of folks. But I learned it’s far more satisfying to prioritize and celebrate what gets done – and somehow along the way, the other “stuff” that really matters slips in and is an added bonus.

In the first week or so of school, perhaps some of your “big rocks” might be:

  • I will know each students’ name and two significant facts or interest about them by day 10.
  • I will contact each family to introduce myself by day 7.
  • I will plan an activity I enjoy for the sake of enjoyment during the first weekend to celebrate my efforts.

Then consider your hopes for the class.  Be realistic, but raise the bar.  If you use the Responsive Classroom approach, you know that building a positive community, providing engaging academics and effective management  mean deep and authentic learning are  possible.  Articulate your hopes and then engage your class in doing the same individually.  I’ve written before on in Easing Back into the Next Chapter and Babs Freeman-Loftis writes eloquently about similar themes in Teachers’ Hopes and Goals.This process can really cement your class community and will provide a frame-work for your guidelines and community. To read more, check out “Our Hopes and Dreams School.”

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All the best for a fantastic start to the school year!


Lisa Dewey Wells


2 thoughts on “School Year Launched – Rocks and Hopes Build Community

  1. This blog has been so helpful to me as a first grade teacher. I plan to use your suggestions to build a much better community of learners in my classroom when school starts again in August. Thanks for the wonderful post!

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