Teacher leading a classroom with students raising their hands

The beginning of any school year can feel like a whirlwind. Between meetings and professional development, educators are hard at work planning their initiatives, classroom set-up and lessons to support student achievement and create a welcoming environment.

If the to do’s are feeling a bit overwhelming, I invite administrators and teachers to stay focused on five priorities to set the foundation for an engaging, inclusive school community by:

1. Building Meaningful Connections
2. Giving Students & Staff a Voice
3. Encouraging Enthusiasm
4. Setting Goals
5. Sharing Expectations

I’ll describe each priority in a little more detail below and will give you a few ideas to get started. You can also download our guideLay the Foundation for a Great School Year – for more inspiration!

#1 – Building Meaningful Connections

Trust is so important to create a welcoming environment. From research, we know that when youth have positive relationships with caring adults, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to succeed academically. Having confidence in colleagues also matters. Workplaces that are marked by high trust experience less burnout, higher productivity and increased psychological safety.

To create stronger connections, make it a priority to get to know colleagues and students as people. Start by introducing a check-in question at the beginning of class or a staff meeting to learn more about one another. Proactively giving acknowledgements and celebrating progress on assignments or goals can be another engaging way to develop relationships.

#2 – Giving Students & Staff a Voice

Motivation is vital to a person’s success in the classroom or in their job. Giving everyone a chance to share their thoughts and be heard is one of the best ways to promote this sort of engagement. Kids who believe they have a voice at school are seven times more likely to be academically motivated than those that don’t. For adults, when a person feels their opinion matters, they’re four times more likely to deliver their best work.

Educators can amplify listening practices by seeking out inputs. In the classroom, set the tone by collaboratively defining norms, getting feedback on lessons and encouraging youth to share what they want to learn about. In the broader community, be sure that staff have an opportunity to express their thoughts on initiatives and empower committees with the autonomy to make decisions and move projects forward.

#3 – Encouraging Enthusiasm

I’d bet that anyone who is reading this post can instinctively appreciate how being excited about whatever you are doing makes you more willing to put in effort. It’s probably not surprising to find that students also learn better when they have an emotional connection to the material and are engaged in the content.

To build enthusiasm, try appealing to the innate ways that people prefer to think. When presenting anything – a lesson, a meeting, an initiative – tie it into the motivations of the Emergenetics® Thinking Attributes. Specifically, highlight why it matters, point out real-world benefits and applications, describe how it positively influences others and make connections to future possibilities.

#4 – Setting Goals

Through goal setting, individuals can define a direction for a successful school year. While it is essential to recognize any required objectives for educators or youth, it’s also important to give people a chance to identify their own targets to promote ownership and agency.

I invite administrators to encourage their staff to identify professional goals that ladder up to school and district objectives as well as a personal ambition they can work toward. Similarly for teachers, spend time with students to help them define academic and individual development targets. Proactively schedule check-ins to talk about progress and opportunities for course correction. For more tips on goal setting, including how to use the Emergenetics Attributes to set meaningful objectives, download our guide.

#5 – Sharing Expectations

You don’t have to have a Structural preference to appreciate knowing what to anticipate from a teacher or supervisor and what is expected of you. Having mutual understanding and accountability helps everyone start on solid footing, and it contributes to creating stronger relationships.

At Emergenetics, we often lean into this concept of what we call “loose and tight.” Tight expectations define agreements in how we’ll work together and treat each other, while loose ones are open for individuals to approach in their own way. In teams or in the classroom, spend time discussing what those rules of engagement are so that everyone can be on the same page.

Using these five concepts as the basis to kick off the school year, educators can set the tone for a climate and culture where every person is more motivated, connected and aligned. For a few more tips to inspire your success and to create the foundation for a positive learning environment, be sure to explore our guide below.

Large stack of books with students around them

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