California Educator

August 2016

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On the first day of school last year, Utt Middle School teachers and staff formed a high-energy "teacher tunnel" to welcome all students. Photos courtesy Christa Glembocki. I T W A S N ' T Y O U R ty p i c a l f i r st d ay back to school , says student Kelsey A d r i a n , re m e m b e r i n g th e st a r t of e i g h t h g ra d e l a s t f a l l . B e f o re s h e could rush off to find the right class- room or worry about the demands of her new teachers, something amaz- ing happened: Staff greeted her with big smiles as she walked in, forming a "teacher tunnel" for her and other students to walk through. "It was a much different feeling than usual," she recalls. "I immediately felt like it was going to be a good year." St af f m a d e it a p oint to p ers on - al ly gre et al l th e stud ents arriv in g f o r t h e i r f i r s t d a y a t U t t Mi d d l e S c h o o l i n Tu s t i n . R e t u r n i n g s t u - d e n t s w a r m l y w e l c o m e d t h e n e w k i d s a n d s h o w e d t h e m a r o u n d . E v e r y o n e s t r o l l e d a r o u n d t h e school to admire the colorful chalk illustrations and inspirational mes- sages created by teachers. " Inst ead of feelin g an xious, li ke I usually do, I felt relief," recalls Hailey Adams, who was also an eighth-grader last fall. "It was awesome to see those welcoming messages in chalk. I felt like teachers would be there for me and support me." Staff also enjoyed turning the first d ay into a m eet and greet. " It was exciting to see surprised expressions and smiles from students and parents a s th e y were imm edi at ely g re et ed and welcomed into school," says art teacher Kiara Moreno, Tustin Educa- tors Association. "Parents appreciated the warm welcome. For many, it eased the anxiety and initial worry." Rather than jumping immediately into rigorous curriculum, TEA mem- b e r s sp e n t t i m e f o st e r i n g a s e n s e SETUP FOR SUCCESS Taking the first day of school from boring to brilliant By SHERRY POSNICK- GOODWIN 8 TIPS for back-to-school bliss 19 Have staff personally greet students when they walk in, instead of wait- ing for them in their classrooms. 20 For fun, make a "teacher tunnel" for youngsters to walk through. 21 Communicate to students that they are welcome and valued, and that school is a safe place. 22 Remind students it's a new year, with a clean slate; and staff want to help them achieve their goals. 23 Decorate campus with colorful chalk drawings, inspirational messages. 24 Plan a teacher flash mob the first week to spark spirit. 25 Foster community with team- building activities before jumping headlong into instruction. The investment helps prevent behavior problems throughout the year. 26 Assign a schoolwide "book in com- mon" with interactive read-alongs to spark discussions in classrooms and the school yard. 22 F E A T U R E

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