Today we are going to tackle the first step in setting up your classroom, without even stepping foot into your classroom. Let’s extend that summer feeling a little bit longer while getting your confidence up and running for the first day of school by tackling classroom policies
Hey guys, Sam here with our special series all about simple classroom setup. If you’re a new teacher, or one who’s made a transition, these episodes are going to help you come through the millions of thoughts and ideas in your head. And get you started setting up an effective and simple classroom, where we take away the decision fatigue and walk you through classroom essentials to start now, so you can feel competent and prepared on day one of school and beyond.
Before we start…
Alright, guys, I am so excited to be talking about this today for a few different reasons. But before we get into it, I want to make sure that you go to the link above and you download the classroom essentials checklist that I have, it’s completely free. But that’s the sheet that I’m gonna be walking through section by section in all of these bonus episodes.
And if you have listened to Episode One, you’re going to know that I was a hot mess. My first year, I shared some things that I failed miserably at. But one thing that I always remember is my classroom was super cute. I didn’t know what my bathroom policy was. I didn’t know what my late work policy was. But I had a really adorable Wonderwall section with some star wallpaper in the background and a futon. And was it. It was great. Except they kept surprising me for weeks literally asking me questions that I should have known the answer to, and I felt so underprepared.
Now I’m going into setting up my fourth classroom, and preps number 12 through 14. I don’t mean to brag, but I feel like I’ve got a really good handle on starting over. I’ve done it a lot. And I’m just really ready to share the information that I’ve learned with you.
Simple Classroom Setup Checklist
This checklist, it is geared more towards secondary, so the middle and high school areas, because that’s what I know. But it’s also a really great starting point for elementary for you to see the types of things that you probably need to prepare for. You can still follow the steps that are going to be laid out in this episode, so that you can get all the information you need. And we’re going to do it in the simplest and most effective way possible.
We are not going to spend tons and tons of time on any single point. But I will say we are not going to start with the pretty things, we’re going to start with functioning things. In fact, the first thing that we’re going to talk about today is actually on page two of that checklist, and it is just policies.
I’m not even going to take you into your classroom space yet for page one, because once you step into your classroom and you start getting those spaces set up, it feels like summer is over. It feels like you’ve cut yourself off from the rest of relaxing because that’s all you’re going to be thinking about. But you can start writing down your classroom policies in your own home or poolside and you don’t have to worry about the stress that’s going to follow it, we’re going to extend that summer just a little bit longer by starting with kind of the less fun things, but super useful.
There are 20 policies that are covered on this classroom essentials checklist. But you are not going to be coming up with 20 policies on your own. In fact, there are three layers of steps that I want you to go through before you even think about having to create your own from scratch.
Classroom Policies: Student Handbook
The first layer is I want you to go through your student handbook or school manual. Whatever the students are expected to follow and abide by, those rules are always going to take precedent over what individual role you have in your classroom. So going through the handbook is going to allow you to cut down on the things that you have to create on your own. In fact, I do want you to copy and paste the information from a student handbook into your own file. But you don’t have to necessarily talk about it on your syllabus, you can just say refer to a student handbook.
Classroom Policies: Department Chair
Next up, you’re going to reach out to your department chair if you have one and see if there’s any department specific policies or even grading that they follow. For science, there might be specific lab safety policies. For English, there might be specific plagiarism policies or steps that they follow through. And you might have different weighted grades, depending on what department you’re in. The math department at most of the schools I’ve been in has usually had its own weighted grade system, separate from what the rest of the school did. And the thing is the department chair will have all this information but they don’t think about giving it out to you until you ask. So make sure you ask!
Classroom Policies: Grade Level/Subject Teacher
The next step is that you’re gonna go to a another grade level teacher or content area teacher if there is another one that you can reach out to. And you’re just gonna see the types of things that they implement in their room that you might also want to consider because they’ve had the experience with these students in that content area. Maybe there’s a specific rule around chemistry that you need to set up that you wouldn’t necessarily need if you taught physical science to freshmen.
This is also where the elementary age is going to come in really handy. Because these teachers have literally seen all of the struggles that you’re gonna go through, and they probably have a policy or routine in place. Then once you’ve done all three of those steps, you are now to the point where you need to create your own policy for the leftovers. But there are things that can be really individualized like “When are your office hours?” “When can they reach out to you? ” (Please give only specific times that you will respond to emails and when it comes down to student expectations and rules.) These can vary widely from classroom to classroom basis.
Keeping it Simple
One of the things that I want you to really think about is how simple you can make your classroom rules and expectation, I think my first year I had some sort of an acronym. And it was really cute. I don’t even remember anymore though because now I’ve simplified my classroom rules to one.
My one and only rule is respect. And there are a lot of things that fall under that. But I can always point back to the one rule, which is so easy for them to remember, especially when they have seven or eight teachers a day, you can’t make it too cloudy.
As long as they respect me, other students and their own ability to learn, they respect the safety of everybody, they respect the items that are provided to them in the classroom, and they respect their time, we’re good. And then I only have to call them out and say “Guys, I have one rule, can we can we just follow it?” it’s a lot easier to monitor that way.
Create Tiers for Consequences
Then when it comes to the consequences or behavior issues, I don’t want you to come up with specifics. Like, if I catch somebody poking Susie on the shoulder, I’m going to do this. No, instead, you’re just going to come up with a three tiered approach. If it’s something small and minor, what are you going to do about it? What if it’s something that is starting to really cause disruptions in class? What are you going to do about it? If it’s something that is causing a large disruption, or is potentially putting somebody at a safety risk, what are you going to do about it? You only need those three levels. And as long as you know what step they’re on, when they cause some sort of ruckus, then you know how you’re going to follow through with it.
*Classroom Policies are subject to Change
And these policies can change. In fact, at the bottom of a syllabus, I always put an asterik like, you know, those little special notes that everybody puts at the end of commercials, these policies are subject to change, and will be addressed in class as they change.
You can’t be expected to hold every single class you’ve ever had to the same standards when they all provide a very new and unique view on the things that you have to consider. And maybe you have a late work policy that just ended up being way too complicated for you and for the students to understand. And you can simplify it down. The simpler you make it for now, the better. And then you just modify and change as needed.
In fact, I came up with this great absent work form that I thought everybody was going to do, while everybody else did Bell work. They were going to acknowledge the work that they’d missed, it was gonna send them an email is going to put it into a nice little Excel sheet for me. And then you know what, almost nobody ever followed through with it, it sounded really great in theory, but it ended up being too complicated for my students. So I had to simplify it. And while it wasn’t the same process that was listed in my syllabus, I have the right to change or modify these things as I find something that works better for us. And nobody ever fights you on that. Unless you’re going to change something like a giant grading policy, parents are never going to argue the little things that you need to do to make your class function.
So just like we talked about in one of the episodes, make sure you feel free to be flexible and adjust as needed. These policies are going to be the backbone of how your classroom runs effectively. And having something in place even if it needs to change is going to make you feel better, like you have something to fall back on when you need it.
Next time, we’ll talk about the routines that you need to set up in your class and how you’re going to think through the processes that go into those routines. Then we’ll finally talk about classroom spaces and how to set those up effectively for the students you have in the things that you teach. And then we’ll talk about that first week of school and the things that you’re going to want to have prepared so that you have it all set and ready to go.
When your students walk in day one, they might be nervous that you won’t, so let’s keep it simple. Let’s keep it fun. And let’s get your classroom set up. Thanks for hanging out today. I hope that this simple step will help build big results in your classroom, home and life. Remember to subscribe review and tag me on social media at engineer does education so we can build a simple system together.