As I write this article, I am sitting on the porch and hearing the sound of the very first locusts. In this part of the country, when you hear this sound, you know that summer is half over and school will be starting before long. Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my suggestions for making your first day of school a success.
There are a few things that you can do in advance to make that first day much easier. If possible, obtain your daily schedule, school calendar, and class rosters before school starts. Take the time to reproduce them in Braille or large print and try to become familiar with the names on each class list. When reproducing your rosters, don't forget to number the students on each list. Since numbers take up less space than names, a numbering system can make such tasks as keeping absentee records and setting up a Braille or print grade book and seating charts much easier.
A second thing that you can do in advance if you haven't already done so is to come up with a list of four or five classroom rules. These rules should be simple enough for your students to remember and easy for you to enforce. It is a good idea to print these rules on a chart which can be displayed prominently in your classroom. This is also a good time to make an outline of your course requirements, grading policy, classroom procedures, and other information which you will present to your students on that first day. A written outline will keep you on track that first day and help you to make sure that you won't forget to tell your students something that is important. It will also give you the opportunity to review and, if necessary, modify your policies and procedures.
A final thing that you can do before school starts is to set up your classroom. Plan to spend an entire day at school arranging furniture, organizing teaching supplies, decorating the room, and making copies of the handouts you will need for the first day. In short, the more organized you are before school starts, the less stressful your first day will be.
So far, we have focused on preparations that should be made before the school year starts. Now, let's talk about that all-important first day of school. Plan to arrive at school as early as possible. This will give you plenty of time to greet staff members, make last-minute preparations, and deal with any unexpected circumstances which may crop up. If possible, stand in the hall and greet your students as they enter your classroom.
When all of the students have entered the classroom, close the door and greet the class as a whole. State your name and what subject or grade you will be teaching. It is important to do this at the very beginning of class so that any students who have come to the wrong classroom will know it immediately. Then, call the roll, noting any absences and deletions or additions to your roster. This is also the time to tell the students where they will sit and come up with a seating chart. In general, requiring the students to sit in the same seats all the time will make it much easier for a blind or visually impaired teacher to learn the students' voices and maintain discipline. Generally, I allow my students to choose where they will sit. However, I also inform them that their seats will be changed if there are discipline problems. After all of the students have been seated, present your classroom rules and point out the chart where the rules are posted. I find it helpful to have the students read the rules aloud and repeat each one after me. This is especially important for younger students. Next, explain your course requirements, grading policy, and classroom procedures. Follow your outline and allow plenty of time for questions.
Finally, it is important to address the subject of your blindness, especially if you have students whom you have never met before. In my experience, it is best to do this in an honest, straight-forward manner, simply stating that you are blind or visually impaired, what you can and cannot see, and how you will perform classroom procedures. Stress that your visual impairment will not interfere with your work as a teacher. It is extremely important to allow ample time for questions about your blindness and leave the door open for future questions. You must do everything you can to make your students comfortable with your blindness and convey a positive attitude about it. If you are successful in doing this, your students will learn firsthand how to deal effectively with people who have disabilities and other differences. This may be the most valuable lesson that they will learn in your classroom all year.
In conclusion, the first day of school can be stressful for students and teachers alike. However, with proper planning and a good attitude, your
first day with your students will be fantastic and you will set the tone
for a productive and exciting academic year.
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