Suggestions for Surviving the Second Semester Chaos
The beginning of the second semester can be so chaotic. It is not generally as stressful as the beginning of the school year, but it definitely presents its own challenges. Students are coming off a long break and are out of routine. This can mean sleepiness, tardies, absences, and/or lack of motivation. A lot of students’ class schedules get switched at semester. This results in new seating charts, new groupings and pairings, and getting new students acquainted to your classroom, your procedures, and your teaching style.
Moreover, this year is sure to have a lot of its own unique hurdles. Some of us are teaching face to face. Others are teaching all virtually. Some of us are on a hybrid schedule. And then some plans, like my high school, have us teaching all schedules at once. Some of us don’t know from one day to the next what we will be doing because the plan changes so frequently.
TREAT IT LIKE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Be friendly and warm. Tell students how much you missed them. Make them feel like you really want them to be there and you are happy they are in your class. If you have new students, give an introduction and allow students to get to know one another. Don’t take the first day back too seriously or feel the need to get straight to business.
Use this reflection and goal-setting activity to get students back in the school mode. It can be assigned digitally as a Google Slide or as a printable for in-person students. The engaging activity really works to get students focused while having fun! It is also a perfect time to take care of house-keeping necessities, such as giving new students a textbook, re-arranging the seating chart, taking attendance, etc.
REVIEW AND RETEACH PROCEDURES
Teaching procedures and routines is one of the best things you can do for you and your students. It makes the classroom run more efficiently and helps the students know exactly what to expect. There are fewer questions and less confusion. After a semester of teaching this content with these students and learning how to deal with the current climate and all its challenges, there are surely some new procedures that need to be implemented or old ones that need to be reinforced. Take the time to figure out exactly which routines your students need to follow to keep everyone sane. Then, intentionally and explicitly teach them to your students. If you need a list of possible ideas check out this free resource to help you get started.
INFUSE STANDARDIZED TEST PREP THROUGHOUT SEMESTER
One last thing I hate to mention, but I must. Unfortunately, standardized tests are a real part of the job. Even if your class is not a “tested” subject, you are still responsible for helping students prepare for the ACT and SAT, any AP exams, or other future potential tests they will have. When you are planning your content, think of ways to infuse the prep into the content. It might be a bell work once a week or a lesson once every couple weeks. Or you may try rewriting your summative test questions in the format of the ACT or SAT.
This is a strategy I used with my high school geometry students. I implemented an SOS program, which stood for “Save Our Skills,” and was a strategic and reward-based system to review the basic and foundational math skills.
Lastly, please know that I believe in you. We’ve got this! You’ve got this! Let me know if I can support you in any way!
Also, if you are feeling overwhelmed with teaching and are bringing your stress home with you after work, try this list of Eight Ways to Disconnect from a Hard Day.