what's your plan?

I wanted nothing more than to go home and spend time with my family before officially moving to my new home in Arkansas. I missed them, but I ultimately decided that logistics wouldn’t work in my favor, and making it home would be nearly impossible. It was the best decision I made. Instead of going home, I was able to move into my new house, get to know my roommates, and drive around my new city to learn about everything it had to offer.

One of my most memorable moments was visiting a drive-up chicken joint in my community. It’s connected to a gas station, doesn’t have any seating, and you order your food at the window and wait for it to be ready. It has the BEST cracked chicken, slaw, and fries around. This little place has become a frequent happening with my friends. It reminds me of the unique sass of my community, and it reminds me why I love living in Arkansas.

Your placement region may not have a chicken joint, but there are all kinds of unique elements that give your community its flavor. The more you can start to understand and appreciate what makes your region special, the more effectively you can connect with your students. Here are my seven tips for getting acclimated with your new community:

1. Fight the urge to go home after Institute. Stay in your placement community!

2. Take some time to drive around your community to get your bearings as soon as possible! It will help give you context to the situation you will walk into before you actually get into your classroom.

3. One of the biggest lessons I learned in my first year is the importance of relationships with people in your community. Trust comes with relationships, and they take time and effort to build. Take the time to make them.

4. Visit as many little diners and authentic eateries as possible. I can think of 10 non-chain restaurants in my community, and they are always a great indicator of the flair and uniqueness of the people, ideas and beliefs of the people who live there — which now includes you, so get to know it, and love it!

5. Go to church. No matter what you believe, many of our communities rely on faith and church to provide friendships, community, and support. Visit one to get an idea of how your community’s faith life works. Chances are they will welcome you in with arms wide open.

6. Go to a school board meeting. Usually these are held once a month, and one will likely take place before school even begins. The school board controls our district, and visiting a meeting will give you huge insight into the stability, functionality, and attitude of your school district.

7. Get involved in an extracurricular activity inside or outside of school. I helped coach the tennis team last year, and practices began a few weeks before school started. Through this experience, I gained exposure and insight into the kind of kids I would teach, and it helped me learn about different areas of the community. I also formed relationships with the coach and players that were extremely valuable throughout the year.

What other tips do you have for getting to know your new community?