The Behavior Illusion Of The First Weeks Of School

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After the first two or three weeks of school you may be lulled into thinking that you have a great class.

But too often, it’s the moment it all goes awry.

I see it year after year. Teachers beaming and chatty at early staff meetings, boasting about how much they love their new students.

Wide-eyed and smiley. Overconfident. Loudly sharing their success.

A month later they’re singing a different tune.

So what happened? Well, early in the school year students are on their best behavior. They’re attentive and excited. They’re eager and appreciative after a long, boring summer. Many are also trying to turn over a new leaf.

It’s all an illusion. It’s not really who they are, at least not yet and not without exceptional teaching and classroom management.

In this day and age, you’re never going to have a great class all on its own. Left to their own devices, your classroom will become Lord of the Flies. Just the way it is.

If you fall into the trap of believing that you have a special group, or that somehow you now have the magic touch, then without even realizing it you’re going to let your guard down. You’re going to become soft and comfortable, weak and inconsistent.

All the while you have no clue. Not yet anyway. You’re just cruising along, blissful and unaware, as storm clouds amass on the horizon.

One day, however, it will catch up to you. The air will feel different. Subtle at first, perhaps, but it’s there. Hints of tension and excitability. Voices on edge. Tinges of disrespect, entitlement, and a slow but sure takeover of your classroom.

Mere rumblings before the thunderstorm shatters your dream. And it does so with a vengeance that doesn’t let up until the end of the school year.

Yes, you can go back and start over anytime you like. But it’s twice as hard and now you have to prove to yourself and your students that you’re not who you first showed yourself to be.

The lesson is this:

All those early halcyon days – if you’re lucky enough to even have them – are no more than an opportunity to set your classroom management plan and its sharply defined rules and consequences in stone.

They offer a window of clear weather to prove that you mean what you say. They’re about establishing the principles and foundations upon which inspired learning and impeccable behavior is built.

And it is built. By you and you alone.

So that those wonderful students, that amazing class that you love after the first few days of school, not only stay that way, but become far more and better than your once-boastful colleagues will ever know.

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