By Lani Aquino
When second semester rolls around, it can be a true separation of the optimists and the pessimists. Are you rolling past the halfway point with it’s all downhill from here as the trajectory, or have those learning vessels only been halfway filled? Some ideas for refreshing that outlook and tweaking the mindset can do wonders for putting a positive spin on the return to school after winter break.
Manage the Mindset
Getting back into the swing can be tricky for students and teachers alike, but teachers definitely play a huge role in setting the tone. While teachers can’t control every aspect of semester’s start, they can ensure that students are entering a learning environment with an active plan in place and a positive attitude leading the pack. How teachers deal with any curveballs from weather, testing, students’ behaviors, etc. tends to dictate the overall classroom climate. When a plan for learning is in place, and a positive attitude spins the reactionary wheel, students and teachers are stepping into a classroom with a firm foundation built on a well-managed mindset.
Enliven the Learning
To help students reignite that learning spark, add some new fuel to the flame. Second semester may mean the start of an entirely new class, or it could simply be the start of a new grading period with the same students. Whichever is the case, by trying a new teaching method or strategy, some new or renewed zing can be added. Even taking five minutes to get students moving and motivated can be just what’s needed to garner some excitement about being a part of the classroom. Rather than starting second semester with an activity or plan that put students in automaton mode, invigorate them by engaging their minds with some active learning strategies.
Reconnect the Team
Once student interest levels have been peaked with some innovative planning, take the time to make sure their interpersonal connections are back on track. This can look different in every classroom based on whether new connections are being made or old ones are being refreshed after a long break. Building and/or maintaining trust within the classroom isn’t a singular occurrence. A positive classroom environment requires mindful management. Interspersing some team building activities and finding ways to manage more challenging student relationships will boost the camaraderie and student engagement for this second half of the school year.
Refresh the Environment
A new outlook on learning can begin as soon as students enter a refreshed learning environment. Adding some interest and/or improved functionality to learning spaces is a great way to recharge the classroom climate. Lots of simple and affordable options can be achieved with minimal time and effort being exerted. A refreshing of the color palette can be as simple as adding some of the right color pops to different learning zones and/or making adjustments to the lighting resources. Retire rigid traditional seating arrangements and make the configurations about the learning activities rather than the grid of a seating chart. Students and teachers can find new ways to arrange and utilize classroom spaces and/or head outside of the classroom to explore other untapped learning spaces within the building.
Being mindful of the spaces, activities, and relationships within the classroom can bring a renewed fervor to learning in the second semester. When teachers manage their mindsets to focus on positivity and help students become engaged and connected to their learning and each other, everyone benefits. Starting second semester doesn’t require reinventing the wheel, but adding some new bling to the spokes can do wonders!