Day One: Buy-in, Breathe, Begin

It’s back-to-school season! To all the educators out there, welcome back and good luck. To kick off the year, NYSCI asked some of our teacher collaborators for tips and tricks that set the tone for a successful (and sane) school year.

We’ll check in a few times over the next few days. If you want more classroom resources from these teachers, all of them are also contributors to Teachers TryScience, a resource for lesson plans, videos, and other resources brought to you by NYSCI, IBM and Teach Engineering. And you can always sign up NYSCI content designed specifically for educators at 

Our first bit of advice comes from Veronica Pastore, a P4K teacher at PS65 in Brooklyn:

”Get your students to BUY-IN from day one. Every teacher has their own pet peeves; what is noisy to me may be acceptably quiet to others. On the first day of school, have the students participate in creating rules and consequences and have them sign them as if it were a legal contract. Respect your students as individuals and they will respect you in return. Try your best not to get stuck in power dynamics. Choose your battles and always discuss their inappropriate behavior one-to-one.

BREATHE!! Take a breath before each period begins and if you find your blood is beginning to boil, direct students to their work so you can redirect your energy. By modeling this, it will show your students that there are more positive ways of dealing with anger and frustration.

Establish ROUTINES. Students are less anxious and less likely to “act out” if they know what they are supposed to do next. Create a daily routine that includes how you enter the classroom, sit down for the “do now,” what to do after that, and what to do when you have completed all of your work.

MODEL the expectations you have for your students from the first day of school. Whether you are teaching how to get an A+ for lab notebooks, or what homework assignments should look like — share an example with the students, and target the ones who need help as soon as possible.  Make the samples visible along with the rubric all year long. If they have any complaints, you can just point them in the other direction.

To keep students on their toes and to engage all types of learners, use various METHODS of instruction; lecture is not for everyone so try to use video, groups, student-led discussions and plenty of other neat teaching tools.