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First Days of School: 'Sweat the Small Stuff'

Some back-to-school food for thought: In a recent post on her Center for Teaching Quality blog, Ariel Sacks says that, despite her original "cool teacher" instincts, she has gradually learned that "sweating the small stuff" in terms of student behavior and comportment (within reason) is not something to be scoffed at. To illustrate, she lists five "pesky" behaviors that she no longer allows in her classroom. Number one is "loud entry into class." She explains:

In most schools, students tend to be loud in hallways. Hallways and classrooms, however, are two distinct spaces, with very different functions. The way students enter the classroom sets a tone for themselves and their classmates for the period. What's the tone of an ideal learning environment? I ask students. How does it feel? It might be happy and upbeat, but it needs to have space for quiet thinking as well. Shouting as one enters a classroom doesn't create the tone of the learning environment we want. Whether you require a silent entry or just a calm one, it's worth having some talking points prepared when students test the boundaries.

All of Sacks's strictures, incidentally, have that same emphasis on preventing distractions and establishing her classroom as a place apart from the restive outside world.

Meanwhile, on Edutopia, 5th grade teacher offers five tips for making a good first impression at the start of the school year. She, too, focuses on the importance of the "little things," though more in terms of teachers' preparation than classroom management:

Don't wait until the students walk into the room to make important decisions that could lead to chaos. Simple things become complicated when you are dealing with 20+ students entering your room for the first time. How are you going to seat your students? A seating chart is a good idea until you get to know your kids. How are you going to distribute all those notices that need to go home? A class mailbox works wonders! How do they go to the bathroom? Signals are a great way to get your attention without disruption. How will they line up when it is time to leave the classroom? Try and think all of these "little things" prior to the first day. If you are new, ask a veteran teacher for help.

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