The first few weeks of the school year have always been so precious to me throughout the stages my life, even as the “first days” changed in purpose over time. The air becomes cooler, summer activities wind down, there’s a feeling in the air unlike any other.
Always ready for “back to school”
For most years, the beginning weeks of school were inaugurated with buying new notebooks, new №2 pencils, “back to school” outfits, reuniting with friends, and seeing whose name was written in the textbook from the year before. Before I was old enough to go to school, my mother would find me staring out the front door as the school bus drove by, holding my child-sized backpack in hand.
When I became a teacher, the beginning of the year was my time to begin fresh. Time to establish a positive classroom culture, to apply effective routines, to learn everyone’s names, plan ahead as much as possible, all while decorating just enough to keep my room welcoming and warm. It was a busy time, but I loved the chance to organize a new year, a new class of students. I accepted conflicting feelings of excitement and nervousness every August.
The start of school setup is absolutely critical to how we as educators feel going into the new year. Now leading Learning and Development with Kiddom, I’ve gotten to see other teachers as they set up their classes, reaching out for assistance and best practices as they navigate integrating new technology. The capabilities through Kiddom make many of these startup steps much simpler and less of a headache for teachers. I’ve found from my own experience and from others, there is a series of necessary “back to school” steps every teacher takes part of. From getting your student list to deciding what you’ll teach to investing your students early, we know what we need to start strong. As you read, can you relate to these instances of getting back into the swing of things? If so, why wait for another year to come around when you can start saving time now?
My student list would inevitably change multiple times throughout the year, especially in the beginning. It was often several weeks into school that student schedules and classes were ironed out completely. I’d have to throw away class lists I’d written by hand, mark out student names that had left, and begin all over hoping this was the last change. Teachers I’ve been coaching through Kiddom are happy to see how easy it is to edit rosters as their student lists change, deleting and adding students to pre-existing assignments, helping them start the year strong with ease. We can help students feel welcomed and included even when their schedule unexpectedly changes. No more white-out or botched class posters with crossed-out student names. Teachers have also liked being able to customize their class through their settings, making the class their own, fitting their style. Rubrics that teachers have used for years can be added into their class, attached to any assignment they create. One of our teachers messaged us — “Wow! Thank you! I love the rubric and standard options!..Kiddom might combine the two to make my life more manageable!!!” Well, now that you mention standards…
I’ll never forget when my school transitioned to Common Core standards; I pored over printed spreadsheets comparing the new Common Core standards to the Tennessee state standards I had just used the year before. Alarming and overwhelming are words that come to memory. But it had to be done! In order to create a yearly scope and sequence, I educated myself. When our teachers set up Kiddom classes, all of the national and state standards are already there in clear buckets, plus, the ability to create your own competencies are available to you. Phew. One user expressed my thoughts exactly: “Yea. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. :)” Another added, “I really like that it includes Marzano alignment since that’s what my school/state uses. I also like that it shows me the status of my students in each standard.” The scores given to students populate some pretty awesome data for each standard you assess. Keeping these standards options open for teachers who track hundreds of different skills is important.
My 8th grade math classroom
Looking through my oversized content binder for 8th grade Math, a mixture of printed and hand-made lessons, from the year before was a ritual every year. What resources did I create last year that were good enough to deliver again, what could I improve, what needed to be thrown away? Recreating the wheel was my specialty. To be fair, I created many excellent resources, but I can also attribute hundreds of hours of work doing so. A teacher’s curriculum is their bread and butter; it’s what will carry their class from day to day. We know this is crucial to starting strong, so teachers can now search and assign content through Kiddom by keywords, grade-level, and type of resource, “I think you guys nailed putting assignments into a system and being able to grade them quickly.” — after many of our teacher conversations, there will also soon be a curriculum planner, unit suggestions, and even more content partners. This totally would’ve helped me save time. If only.
While administrative tasks were taking place, I was also thinking about my kids and the classroom culture they would be part of! How do I encourage positive behavior, track their development, and send meaningful updates home to parents? On top of everything else. I wanted to invest my kids early. Many teachers I’ve worked with are excited to know that social-emotional learning (SEL) can also be assessed along with academic standards. Teachers have been educating students all this time on how to work in groups, communicate their feelings, and be responsible — but most have never had a place to see their development progress tied to data and reports. Now that we’ve partnered with CASEL, you can. One of our users responded to our emphasis on SEL with, “This is about time kids learn to be respected, to handle conflicts, to feel safe expressing their emotions and given the tools to do so in constructive ways. Good for you!” We agree that truly, this should be the priority.
Meetings with my assistant principal, curriculum coach, or grade team were too few and far between. There were days I needed help now, but so did everyone else in the building. My third year teaching, I was blessed with an outstanding Math coach; I only wish every teacher had access to their expertise. Helping educators adapt to Kiddom is something we love doing, and is at the top of our list during the busiest times of the school year. Whether we are on the phone, at a school, or chatting online, our teaching staff at Kiddom provides an extra hand in getting started. “Whether I’m having trouble with a feature or have a suggestion, someone always seems to be on the other side paying attention. 🙂 More than I can say for a lot of things we pay for!” Yes, our assistance, like our platform, is totally free and comes straight from us — we even help teachers put on PD at their schools as they begin adopting these tools. It brings us joy seeing teachers improving their classrooms with Kiddom.
Starting the school year strong was non-negotiable for me. Similar to building a house, the structure will be unstable if there is not a solid foundation set up beforehand. It wouldn’t be until the third month of school that I felt like the foundation had been built and we were in a productive, fruitful rhythm. The longer it takes to reach those rhythms, the less time we have to devote to learning. The faster we can establish the routines, the more my students got to take part in classroom culture and daily wins. Technology should be created with the goal of closing the gap in this process.
Although the beginning of the year could be busy and overwhelming, it was still, and always will be, my favorite time. Creating a space where students are receiving personalized learning, individual intervention, and feeling motivated was my goal. Setting students and teachers up for success is our goal at Kiddom. Start strong, and the rest of the year will follow in its footsteps.