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Surviving the 1st Month of School: 20+ Tips & Resources

August 21, 2012

Many of us will face many new learners in the next few days. Many have already met the individuals we will be making an impact on this year. Starting the school year has always felt like Christmas Eve to me. When I was a kid I could not sleep because I was excited about the day ahead, yet nervous. I think educators should be nervous and excited because we have the mission of guiding the learning journeys of many. Educators will make an impression on their learners; whether, this is a positive or negative impression is up to us. I like to start on a positive note and ensure I choose to walk in my class everyday and positively impact my students. Perhaps, you feel the same but need some inspiration or guidance. I hope the following tips and resources will help you along your journey! Bon Voyage!

My Survival Tips

  1. Walk in motivated!– you will have the rest of the year to get bogged down, stressed, and in the dumps. What’s wrong with walking in believing you can really make a difference to your learners? I say start optimistically because it is often more difficult to pick yourself up.
  2. Engage parents!– Let’s start  with a positive message about each student instead of a negative message. I like to write emails and send one to each parent with a nice personal note about the student. I also include information about the school supplies, technology we will use, and more. I also invite them to a parent workshop with food to encourage them to attend. At this workshop we discuss the technology that will be used in the classroom and I ask parents to share ideas to improve the learning environment.
  3. Set-up your classroom to support the various learning styles!
  4. Encourage learners to take part in creating their own learning environments!
    • Have them graffiti on butcher paper on the wall
    • Have them post their inspirational quotes on the wall
    • Have them create bulletin boards
  5. Be preventative and proactive when it comes to managing your classroom!– Doing this will ensure you have less behavioral problems.
  6. Unbind yourself from course books!– You know what your students need to learn so feel free to pick and choose what will work in the book and try having students be the main content creators of materials.
  7. Try a flexible curriculum!– Don’t be glued to your curriculum. Instead, invite parents and students to make decisions about the curriculum. Once students are involved in their learning, they take ownership of their learning.
  8. Reassess assessment!– How will you grade your students? Try a different approach!
  9. Get to Know Your Students! All your students should start with a clean slate. No matter what their past has been, you could be the first individual who has reached out to them. Our toughest students misbehave for a reason and usually are facing something horrific in their lives. Let’s care for them and let them start with a fresh record in our classroom.
  10. Integrate technology effectively!– Pedagogy first then technology. When we use technology it should:
    •  support students ownership of learning
    • allow students to be content creators
    • engage and motivate students to be continuous learners
    • support effective communication, especially with peers worldwide
  11. Have fun!– When you enjoy your job your kids have fun learning!

Presentation video:

These tips are from a recent presentation I did for American TESOL. Please feel free to watch the YouTube video:

More Resources

These are more resources to help you:

Shelly Terrell Sanchez Biography

When I started my educational journey…

In 1992, I began teaching inner-city children through nonprofit programs and organizations. I was inspired to continue to reach out to these children through creative writing and literacy programs. I worked with troubled teens at alternative schools and in low-income neighborhoods. I also participated in programs that reached out to teens in juvenile detention centers. My greatest joy was working with homeless children as part of my non-profit organization, ETHOS. Since 2004, I have taught beginner, intermediate, and advanced English Language Learners of various ages, cultures, and backgrounds in the US, Germany, and Greece. I started teaching college students and high school students for the University of Incarnate Word in Texas with great success due to my collaboration with a phenomenal staff of educators dedicated to student achievement.

Where my journey has now led…

I use what I gained from these experiences to now train teachers worldwide online and face-to-face. I am blessed to have presented to over 1000s of teachers worldwide in over 100 countries. Many of these teachers participate in the various highly acclaimed and award-winning e-conferences and online professional development opportunities I help organize and have founded, which include Edchat, ELTon nominated ELTChatThe Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. My projects and prolific presence in the educator community through social media have been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, UNESCO Bangkok, Edweek, Converge Magazine, the United Federation of Teachers, the 140 Conference, Mashable, English Central,, the ELTons, the Edublog Awards and T/H/E JOURNAL. In 2013 find my book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education. The 30 Goals project is a unique professional development project in which over 9000 educators worldwide have participated in to help them develop Personal/Passionate Learning Networks and accomplish social media and teaching goals. In addition to my CELTA, I hold an Honours BA in English and a minor in Communication with a specialization in Electronic Media from the University of Texas in San Antonio and an Honours MA in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix. You can also connect with me and contact me on Twitter, @ShellTerrell where I connect with over 25,000 educators daily.

I am available for conferences, workshops, plenaries, and consulting. Your organization can reach me at ShellyTerrell at to discuss arrangements. Here is a current listing of the various topics I present on and also my slide presentations, recorded webinars, interviews, write-ups, and more.

You can visit my complete portfolio here!

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