The hardest thing about the start of the school year isn’t setting up a classroom management plan or all the other things I talk about in the School Year Starter Kit. The hardest thing is carrying through the things that we set up or talk about during that first week into every week that follows, all the way to the end of the school year. Like all the best things, there’s not a silver bullet for full-year consistency — it’s just daily discipline and the creation of structures that facilitate that.
For example, let’s say this year you want to cultivate the five beliefs that drive student behavior. Great! I think that these are great levers for advancing long-term flourishing outcomes. Efforts at belief cultivation aren’t wasted as long as we’re ready to learn from both failures and successes. For all the tons of pages written about social-emotional learning (SEL), character strengths, grit, growth mindset, and so on, the five beliefs do what I need: they distill the good stuff and delete the distractions. But compared to how hard it is to work at cultivating those beliefs every week of the school year, introducing them during the first week of school is absolutely simple.
Or let’s take classroom management. Compared to how hard it is to be consistent with your classroom management plan every day of the school year, creating a plan and setting it out for your students and even teaching them through the plan is absolutely simple. This is why the start of the school year shouldn’t find us bright and bubbly as much as it should find us fiercely passionate and resolved to carry the most important things through. There isn’t a viable alternative — when we assume that our students have “got” something simply because we worked hard on it during the first week of school, we’ve committed assumicide.
Administrators, I’m talking to you, too. You’ve got great intentions for the coming school year, a clear vision of (and perhaps even a clear purpose for) where the school needs to move next, but unless you consistently carry your key ideas through — in your communications and meetings and PDs, all across the school year — you and your staff are going to end up frustrated by mid-year. Together, you’ll lose the needle of what you once said was important in the haystack of the torrent known as Any Given School Year.
All of us — teachers, students, administrators — will see greatly improved results if we commit to the hard work of carrying the best of Week One all the way through to the last week.