5 Mistakes Teachers Make the First Week of School and How to Fix Them

Linda Kardamis on episode 218 [A special encore episode] of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Linda Kardamis @LindaKardamis shares five mistakes teachers make the first week of school. Remember that January is a fantastic time to “reboot.” So, if you made one of these mistakes, work to start over and correct those mistakes. This is the number three episode of 2017.

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Enhanced Transcript

5 Mistakes Teachers Make the First Week of School

[Recording starts 0:00:00]

VICKI: So today we’re talking about five mistakes that teachers make the first week of school with Linda Kardamis @LindaKardamis from Teach 4 the Heart. And I have to give a hat tip to my friends at Sherwood Christian Academy because they told me about Linda.

So Linda, let me understand and help all of us understand, what are the five mistakes that we do not want to make that first week of school?

Mistake #1: Forgetting How Important the First Week Is

LINDA: That first week of school is so important and that first mistake is just that, the first mistake is not realizing how important the first week of school is. So sometimes you just think, “Oh, I’m going to jump in, I’m going to be excited” but you don’t realize how important it is to set aside time to really teach your procedures, to establish structure and really make sure that you have all your docs in a row. Because if you make mistakes that first week of school it can really derail the rest of your year but if you start out right it’s really powerful.

VICKI: It is so much and it is very important how you start. I want somebody to go home and talk about my class the first day because that’s one of the only time parents will say, “Hey, what classes do you like.”

TIP: Work to be memorable. If you want some of my procedures, read Tips on Starting the School Year. Also, our guest, Linda Kardamis, has a Back to School Webinar to check out.

MISTAKE #2: Expecting Good Procedures to “Just Happen”

VICKI: It’s usually what did you do wrong. Okay, what’s the second one?

LINDA: The second one is expecting good procedures to just happen. Sometimes teachers make two mistakes underneath this one, sometimes we don’t think through our procedures, so we just think, “Oh, we’ll just go to the restroom” without thinking, “Okay, I need a plan for how we’re going to go to the restroom.” The other mistake is just tell your students your procedures. So instead of you just tell them, okay, here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to pass in our papers. Instead, you actually have to practice it with them.

And I take it a little further, I say don’t just practice. If someone does something when you’re practicing it kindly correct them, be very encouraging and then have them redo the part that went wrong. And if you do that then your students will have amazing procedures.


It will take time in the beginning but it will pay off the whole rest of the year.

VICKI: And my sister who was a teacher for many years said you can never be tougher than you are that first week. And that’s really the time we’re trying to teach, isn’t it?

LINDA: Yes, exactly.

Two tips here:

  1. Think through procedures
  2. Help students practice procedures consistently, especially at the beginning of the year

Mistake #3: Letting the Little Things “Go”

VICKI: Okay, what’s our third?

LINDA: The third one kind of goes along with what you just said. It’s letting little things go. And I did this my first year especially, I didn’t really know how to deal with issues. Honestly I had good intentions, I didn’t want to whack kids on the head for just talking out loud or having their head down or something little like that. but what I did instead is I did nothing, I didn’t say anything, I just let it all go. And what happened was those little problems don’t stay little. They started growing because students thought, “She doesn’t really mean what she says. She says to do this but nothing happens when I don’t”

And so I learned to address small issues the first week of school. And I learned that that doesn’t mean you have to give a consequence but it does mean you have to address it. So even something really simple like, “Greg, we don’t run in the classroom, please step back outside and come in calmly.” Just addressing them instead of letting them go is huge because it’s sends a strong message to our students that procedures matter, we mean what we say and we’re here to focus and learn.

VICKI: And procedures actually give us a lot of freedom to be creative. Because I know if I didn’t have my procedures in my classroom I would be focusing on the little things and not being able to do these other exciting things, you know?

LINDA: Right. And I really believe that those first few weeks of school, if you can focus and put on the work of establishing the procedures, establishing structure, then you’re able to do fun stuff the whole rest of the year whereas if you sometimes jump in on the fun stuff before you have your procedures established, then it’s like a right the whole year and you’re not able to do as much as you want to do. Then you can do, like you said, so many fun things you can do with your class.


Work to establish the procedures and practice the procedures. Sometimes the little things can become much larger if not addressed at the beginning.

Mistake #4: Worrying too Much About Being Liked

VICKI: Okay, what’s our fourth?

LINDA: Number four is worrying about being liked. I mean, we all like to be liked but do we worry about it. And if we let that desire drive our decisions we’re going to set ourselves up for trouble and ironically our students often end up not respecting us and not liking us. So I like to think of it in this way, instead of trying to be a student’s friend, strive to be a mentor. So instead of thinking yourself as a friend, think of a mentor. Because a mentor doesn’t let things go, they have higher expectations, they’re pulling their students up. So you can be both kind and firm, personable but not a pushover, understanding, kind, compassionate but you deal with issues.1

And when you’re that type of teacher you gain their respect and they actually often even end up liking you.

VICKI: I always tell my students you’re going to thank me when you’re 23. That is my goal. That’s when I want them to like me. Not now, because they’re kids and I love them. But kids are kids. Even us adults we make mistakes. And I love the idea of redemptive teaching, of trying to help kids to be able to turnaround that attitude. And also, though, if look at Hattie’s research, the number one thing is teacher expectations.

I was telling somebody the other day. If a teacher says these kids can’t learn go ahead and take them out of the classroom and don’t even waste your year because whatever the teacher believes is what they’re going to receive from those kids.

READ: Hattie’s Relative Influences – “Teacher Estimates of Achievement” are at the top! And remember, you have to have strong expectations of achievement of both your students AND your ability to teach them. What kind of year do you EXPECT to have? Work on your expectations before you show up for work. Your expectations work for you far more than you can understand. If you can raise your expectations, you can raise achievement.

This is especially important for students in poverty. Listen to Dr. Anael Alston about Poverty and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.

Mistake #5: Not Being Prepared

VICKI: Okay, what’s the fifth?

LINDA: The last one is just not being prepared. Do you know what you’re going to do when a student blurts out an answer, then they get up and wander around the room, if they use profanity or any other classroom issue. My first year I didn’t have a plan and because I didn’t I lacked confidence. And so, when these things inevitably came up I did nothing and we already talked about when we did nothing.

So, it really helps to have a plan ahead of time. I even recommend writing it down. And you will talk to other teachers, read blogs, do whatever you need to do but come up with a plan, even if it’s not the best plan in the world it’s better than no plan because if you have no plan at all you’re going to freeze and not know what to do. But if you have a plan it will really help your confidence and your students will be able to see that.


Vicki asks Linda about a plan Vicki has to make this year: Students talking when others are talking

VICKI: And you know, I feel like I have a plan for almost everything but I’m going to give you one of my problems. So I love having classroom conversations but when the kids get excited they over-talk each other and then sometimes they’ll even do it to me. And I teach older kids so the stuff that works with elementary kids is kind of demeaning for the older kids. So, Linda, do you have an idea for me?

LINDA: When the students are talking they start talking over the top of each other?

VICKI: Yeah, they’ll start talking over the top of each other and then if I don’t stop it then they’ll do it to me and I just can’t stand it because I feel like each person needs an opportunity to be heard. Sometimes your extroverts will do this more often than your introverts and it can really make it difficult for those introverts to be heard.

LINDA: Yes. Well, one thing that comes to mind is – Michael Hyatt talk about this all the time and he has the rule and it’s just we have one conversation. He does this even at his dinner table. And obviously this does take a lot of teaching of the procedure but he just basically says we always have one conversation, in other words one person is talking. If someone else is talking, kind of just teaching them to let the other person finish first. And just not to break into those side conversations.

READ: How to Have Better Dinner Conversations

LINDA: Because I know that’s where often where things happen is two students will start talking on the side and then they’ll draw someone else in and like you said, soon everyone is having side conversations. But if you kind of create that expectation that we’re having one conversation, everyone participates in the one conversation and not the side conversations maybe that will help a little bit, I’m not sure. That’s how best I can come with on the top of my head.

VICKI: I know. And I sprung that on her. But this is just one example of many of the awesome things you can get from Teach 4 the Heart. http://ift.tt/1B5AEVi

We’re going to include in the show notes a full webinar that you do, Linda, one the five mistakes teachers make the first week of school.


LINDA: Yeah. If you go to http://ift.tt/2vdDEDl you will be able to sign up for this training. There’ll actually be a video [replay] so you can watch it on your own time and get all your tips. We just go into this in much more detail and then we talk about how to correct them and how to start the school year right.

VICKI: Teachers, get out there and be remarkable and don’t make these mistakes. So I’ve gotten some great advice and I even got some advice for the thing I’m studying on this summer which is – I love this, I love Michael Hyatt too, having one conversation. I really like that. And that will be on my list. And you can see how all of us have something that we need to improve on every year. It’s part of being remarkable, it’s part of improving.

LINDA: Absolutely.

[End of Audio 0:08:43]

Bio as submitted

Linda Kardamis provides practical advice and Biblical encouragement for Christian teachers on her website Teach 4 the Heart (http://ift.tt/1B5AEVi). She is also the author of Create Your Dream Classroom (http://ift.tt/2vdfzwx) and the creator of Classroom Management 101 (http://ift.tt/2w5tMIa) and Teach Uplifted (http://ift.tt/2vdh5yz).

Blog: http://ift.tt/1B5AEVi

Twitter: @LindaKardamis

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post 5 Mistakes Teachers Make the First Week of School and How to Fix Them appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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