All the Things I Did Wrong My First Year of Teaching (or, the story of the student contract)

I remember my first day as a professional teacher. It was so exciting! I was so nervous and had NO idea what to say. I had just moved to Arizona from Ohio and hadn’t even had a chance to unpack my boxes. As such, I did not get to read that first days of school book by that famous author whose initials are H.W. Had I read it, I would have had some idea of how to start the year off right. Even if I had, though, I probably still would have made copious amounts of mistakes. As it was, I remember saying – to each of my classes – that I was pretty easy going and I just wanted them to do their work. I literally remember the words, “I don’t really have any rules,” come out of my mouth. Such a mistake. Such a bad, bad mistake. Unsurprisingly (in hindsight), the year was full of behavior problem after behavior problem. I couldn’t get my students to do their work; I could barely manage to keep them in their seats. After a long year full of administrative reprimands (for me – not the kids) and several tears later, I realized that if I wanted to have a better second year teaching, I had to do something differently. That thing was the student contract.

I sat down one day over the summer and wrote down every single procedural question I could remember a student asking me. I then wrote down every single reason I could think of for a student to be out of his/her desk and talking out of turn. It was a long list. Once I had all my “mis”behaviors, I began laying out the responses I would give my students if they asked what they should do if… I didn’t want students shouting out that they had to go to the bathroom, so what would I say if a student asked me, “What if I have to go to the bathroom, Miss?” I did this for every single thing I could think of and wrote it all down in a single document. It was a long document. But soon, I had a rule or procedure for everything under the sun, along with my disciplinary routine (rules and consequences). I typed it up in kid-friendly language and voila, the student contract was born. The next year, I went through the contract with students the first week of school. Yes, it really took nearly the whole week – remember, I said it was a long document. I then had them sign it and return it to me so I could keep it on file – just in case. The 5 main rules were, of course, posted in the classroom, but I made sure to spend time on all the little things in that first week so students would know what I expected of them. Let me tell you how different my second year was from my first. Students did their work. They stayed in their seats. I wasn’t putting out fires left and right. Were there problems? Sure. It was only my second year. I had a lot to learn. But it was better.

And each year I would tweak the contract to include things I hadn’t thought of the previous year but turned out to be an issue. The result is the student contract document in my store. The student contract saved my professional life and helped me be a better, happier teacher. It’s not just for new teachers; it can be adapted for experienced teachers looking to improve their own classroom management. It works for year-long or semester classes. It’s something you can even implement in the middle of the year if necessary. If this sounds like something you’re looking for, please stop by my store to check out the student contract.

student contract

Student Contract

Store email: madeyemoodyproductions@yahoo.com

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