Heading Back to School! - National Council of Teachers of English
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Heading Back to School!

It’s back-to-school time for many teachers and students! It can be an overwhelming time, with the never-ending to-do lists and details. But it can also be thought of as a time for a fresh start, beginning anew.

Here are some of the things I’ve kept in mind while starting the school year, in the 25-plus years I have been in education:

  • Community-building: As teachers, we usually go into the first weeks of school assuming full responsibility for building the learning space. But what happens if we put some of that responsibility in our students’ hands instead? Our new students come to us full of ideas, stories, expertise, and curiosity. These are the essential materials for a strong classroom community. Here are a few ideas for how to put those raw materials to use.
  • Classroom management: Classroom management is an area where I feel all teachers need to constantly adjust, change, and grow with their students. This blog post shares about that need: “Creating a comfortable environment allows for students to build a respect for their teacher, and be willing to share their own thoughts and ideas.”
  • Projects: Students learn through inquiry about aspects of the world around them, and one way to enact student-centered inquiry is through project-based learning. Read more in this NCTE book.
  • Assessment: Assessment is different from grading. Especially at the beginning of the semester, when I am still getting to know my students, I observe and capture a series of anecdotes of student development. These can then be shared with families and administrators to provide concrete evidence of the kinds of student learning that traditional testing and reporting can have difficulty capturing. Try these strategies to use kidwatching in your classroom.
  • Inspiration: I am definitely inspired by the virtual professional learning community I have established. I get lots of ideas from other educators and groups on Facebook, Pinterest helps me feel crafty, and I love the energy of a Twitter chat! Follow NCTE online as well as ReadWriteThink on social media.

What do you focus on as you prepare for the coming school year?


It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.


Lisa Fink is an NCTE staff member, a former elementary teacher, and a current instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She can be reached on Twitter at @fink_girl.