About Alex Morgan

Teach For America teacher (Milwaukee '11), Kalamazoo College alumnus, Democrat, and Detroiter.

5 Goals for the First 8 Weeks of School

5 Goals for the First Eight Weeks of School--Whether you're entering your second or third year of teaching, or tackling your first, here are five goals for the first eight weeks.

Teaching is sometimes like being in a room with a bunch of ticking time bombs. On the outside, my students were absolutely adorable. But deep down there were any number of things that could send them into a meltdown. Further, once my students fully understood our daily routine, they knew where they could manipulate their unsuspecting teacher.

I don’t know how I survived last year.

At the outset I wrote a vision, I set big goals, my students were invested in our collective classroom experience, but I didn’t know how to put those pieces together to effectively manage a classroom. To be honest, I still don’t know how to effectively manage a classroom. I struggled through my first year. I wrote lesson plans week-by-week in my bedroom as part of a Sunday night ritual, and, like any teacher, I learned on the fly. Sure, we made gains by June, but there’s got to be a better way to get there.

While I can’t change my first year, I can encourage myself to enter the coming school year equipped with a plan and I can commit to it. Whether you’re entering your second or third year of teaching, or tackling your first, here are five goals for the first eight weeks.

Develop a vision that speaks to you and set SMART big goals
We can sit and talk about what a Teaching As Leadership-model classroom looks like, but, if at the end of the day your vision isn’t true to you, it isn’t going to be important to you or your students, either. What do you want to see in your students at the end of the year? Who will they become over the course of nine or ten months? Second, make sure your big goals are SMART or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Yes, you need to think about the big picture; however, if your big goals don’t meet these criteria, then how do you expect your class to meet them by the end of the year?

Create a schedule and management plan to guide your day
If you have your students all day, how much time do you dedicate to each subject? If you have your students for one period, how do you break it down into fun and informative blocks? Whatever you choose to do in your classroom, make sure you have a schedule and stick to it! Similarly, just like you have a plan for your day, you need to have a plan for how you work with your students. What are your classroom rules? What are the consequences for students who aren’t following directions?  What procedures do you need to teach? What do all these things look like and sound like? How are you going to teach them?

Create an Investment Plan that incentivizes those outcomes and behaviors
If you’re going to be handing out consequences in your classroom for negative behavior, it better pail in comparison to the amount of praise you dish out for positive behavior. What is that vision your students are supposed to be working toward throughout the year? How are they supposed to behave in your classroom? Take those elements and incentivize them in your Investment Plan. You want your students to be global citizens? How many stamps do they need to earn in their passport to earn a reward? Did your most challenging student turn it around for an entire day? What can you do to make sure s/he stays on track for the rest of the week? Try to create both individual and class-wide trackers to monitor student progress and be sure to set benchmarks for celebrations!

Create your Unit Plan 0 and Unit Plan 1
Once you have your guiding principles set forth in the above documents, think about how you’re going to put them into practice. Plan to spend the first day or two of school teaching and re-teaching classroom rules, and the first three weeks of school teaching and re-teaching classroom procedures. This doesn’t mean you ignore core content, but, as you start working with your curriculum, make sure your students know what you expect of them. Make a list of the top ten expectations you have of your students and teach them in mini-lessons during the first two days. Review them as necessary. Then, make sure you thoroughly plan your first unit. Know your play-by-play for the entire unit so that you have a solid model for future work. Ideally, we would map out our entire year, but having a model is much better than having nothing at all. Trust me!

See how Harry Wong, author of “First Days of School,” suggests how to establish procedures and manage routines.

Set the right tone on Day 1
Whatever you do, enter your first day of school ready for anything. This is where you activate all of your tools. Be sure to make a strong first impression. Let your students know you mean business by teaching and re-teaching classroom rules and procedures. Tell your students why they are in your class and what they will get out of your class. Remind them why school is so important and why they need to be excited about their education. Most of all, be authentic. Your kids know when you’re putting on a show. If they sense you’re serious about their education, they’ll come to trust you in time.

Don’t miss this post on 10 Things To Do In Your First 10 Minutes with students.

Think you’re up to the challenge? Let me know what goals you have for the first eight weeks and any questions you have as you enter your classroom (for the first, second, or umpteenth time) this fall.

By |July 26th, 2015|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on 5 Goals for the First 8 Weeks of School|

Burning Questions: Tarah Jensen (Los Angeles ’12)

Tarah Jensen (Los Angeles '12) is wrapping up her first year at ICEF's View Park Prep High School.  Here she takes a time-out from teaching to master a mini-golf course.

Tarah Jensen (Los Angeles ’12) is wrapping up her first year at ICEF’s View Park Prep High School. Here she takes a time-out from teaching to master a mini-golf course.

Name: Tarah Jensen
Region and Year: Los Angeles ’12
Placement: Algebra 2

What is the funniest or strangest comment or question you’ve heard from a student?
Either “The probability of me failing this class is zero,” or “Should have had a V8.”

By |May 10th, 2013|Take a Break|Comments Off on Burning Questions: Tarah Jensen (Los Angeles ’12)|

Burning Questions: Reuben Ogbonna (Atlanta ’12)

Reuben Ogbonna (Atlanta '12) doesn't hold back in today's Burning Questions conversation on TeacherPop!

Reuben Ogbonna (Atlanta ’12) shares how he pushes his students to be “go-getters” and his secret love of Paula Patton in today’s Burning Questions!

Name: Reuben Ogbonna
Region and Year: Atlanta ’12
Placement: 10th Grade Math

What is the funniest or strangest comment or question you’ve heard from a student?
Student: Why do you always eat all of that healthy food?
Me: I’m getting old.
Student: What? You’re not even that old. If I could, I would live off of Hot Cheetos and Takis.
Me: Even for breakfast?
Student: Yep!

By |May 9th, 2013|Take a Break|1 Comment|

Burning Questions: Haley Thompson (Nashville ’12)

Haley Thompson (Nashville '12) hanging out with Delta State University's Fighting Okra at Institute.

Haley Thompson (Nashville ’12) hanging out with Delta State University’s Fighting Okra at Institute.

Name: Haley Thompson
Region and Year: Nashville ’12
Placement: 2nd Grade

Describe Institute in five words or less.
Best time ever.

By |May 8th, 2013|Take a Break|1 Comment|

Burning Questions: Olubunmi Fashusi (Baltimore ’11)

Olubunmi Fashusi (Baltimore '11) takes time out from her busy day to answer TeacherPop's Burning Questions.

Olubunmi Fashusi (Baltimore ’11) takes time out from her day to answer our Burning Questions.

Name: Olubunmi Fashusi
Region and Year: Baltimore ’11
Placement: K-8 English to Speakers of Other Languages

Why did you join Teach For America?
I joined Teach For America because I want to help students learn. I want to be an adult in their lives who they undoubtedly know loves them and cares about them, and is someone they can always rely on.

By |May 7th, 2013|Take a Break|Comments Off on Burning Questions: Olubunmi Fashusi (Baltimore ’11)|

Burning Questions: Oscar Aviles (San Antonio ’11)

Oscar Aviles (San Antonio '11) takes a break from hiking around Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Oscar Aviles (San Antonio ’11) takes a break from hiking around Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Name: Oscar Aviles
Region and Year: San Antonio ’11
Placement: 4th Grade Bilingual

Share the title and the first paragraph of your autobiography.
From Walking Paths by Oscar Aviles: “I was born on the Mesa, a tiny dot that was almost in Michoacan, but very much Tierra Caliente. I have heard many stories of that day, the day Guadalupe’s first grandson was born. I took my first breath of bright blue sky on September 13, my lucky number from that day on.”

By |May 6th, 2013|Take a Break|Comments Off on Burning Questions: Oscar Aviles (San Antonio ’11)|

This Week In Relationships: Leading from my story of self

At the end of a rough day, when the students are getting ready to board their busses, there’s always one student who can make the teacher smile. For me, that student was Waymon. He’s got a huge smile that never ceased to light up my day.  I see a lot of myself in Waymon.

By |September 11th, 2012|Your Stories|1 Comment|

This Week In Relationships: Colleagues

In it together. (Photo: namastenish, Instagram)

Last year I had a student we’ll call Mr. No Shoes. He earned this nickname from my MTLD because whenever he received a consequence, he would scream and kick off his shoes. He was an incredibly smart student, but he always managed to manipulate those around him and end up causing the most mischief. Let’s just say Mr. No Shoes is the student I always worried about at the end of the day. I felt incredibly frustrated whenever I had to talk to him about seemingly simple things like kicking another student, and incredibly sad whenever I had to ask him to leave the room because he refused to calm himself. My MTLD and I thought we were so smart; we tried every incentive and consequence we could think of to curb his behavior. Yet, we were not successful. By October, I realized we were overlooking some people who knew Mr. No Shoes much better than us.

At that point in the school year, I hadn’t solicited advice from any of my colleagues. I took what I saw from outside their classrooms and assumed they had low standards for their students and themselves. Yet, when Mr. No Shoes pulled the fire alarm early one morning and got himself suspended by our Executive Director, I was desperate for solutions. I decided to turn to anyone who would offer a suggestion. I was ready for a real conversation with my fellow teachers.

By |August 27th, 2012|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on This Week In Relationships: Colleagues|