Did you know that there is ONE thing that happens on the first day of school that can make or break the rest of your year?
It isn't how beautiful your room decorations are. It's not how fun your icebreaker activity is. It's not how much you like your students or how much they like you.
Believe it or not, it isn't even what your class rules are. Sure, you need rules. Yes, you must teach those rules starting on day one. But the most important thing you MUST do on the very first day is enforce your rules every... single... time.
The biggest mistake teachers (both new and old) make on the first day of school is cutting students slack when it comes to rules and procedures. I know, I know... you want to be nice. You want your students to like you. You want everyone to have fun and enjoy their first day of school. All of that can, and should, happen. But teaching your students what the rules are without requiring them to follow the rules is a recipe for a hard year.
Let's pretend that of your rules is to not interrupt the teacher. You role play what interrupting looks like with your students. You talk about why interrupting is impolite. You explain the consequences for interrupting. Then you move on to something else. Your students are very excited about the new activity. They just can't wait to hear what you have to say. Everyone is talking over each other and no one can hear your instructions. What do you do?
My inclination would be to think, "Oh, it's the first day. Plus, they're really excited. I'll remind what the rule is and maybe they'll do better tomorrow."
BIG MISTAKE! What I just did is give my students an excuse to break my rule. Interrupting is okay if you're excited. Interrupting is alright if we're doing something new. I only expect you to follow the rule sometimes. Worst of all... You aren't smart enough to understand the rule without lots of reminders.
The better approach is stop the activity. Let your class know that the fun is ending because they are not following the rule. Maybe you'll try again later, but for now, they've lost the privilege. This isn't being mean. They won't go home and tell their parents that you're a troll. No, they will understand that the rule is the rule every single time and you'll save yourself a lot of headaches.
Remember, your students will continue to test the boundaries as long as the boundaries aren't crystal clear. Kids need structure. Predictability makes them feel comfortable and safe. Most of all, requiring them to following the rules from day one sets high expectations!