Just getting in there is the best thing to do . You will learn fast, don't worry. I would take a week or two before school starts to call your principal and ask when you can get in your room and take a look at your curriculum, so you have time to familiarize yourself with it. (That will also let your principal know you are dedicated to your job)
I also started in a grade I never imagined I would. It happens to people all the time. You should be given a mentor; don't be afraid to ask him/her questions!
Also, be firm and consistent on the first day of school with your rules/procedures and discipline. Don't try and befriend the kids. They will like you in time; but you are setting yourself up for problems if they see you are easy to manipulate from day one. Good luck!
Hey darlin' I will give you this advise. Don't try the screaming thing trust me as a student a lot of time Kids will try to get you to yell because they think it wears you out so then they will get away with more. Don't let it appear to them that you have any favorite students. Always allow a group discussion on the curriculum topics this really gets ideas and thoughts pumping. Think of little games to to help them learn. Above all keep a visible weekly conduct chart for those that are bad. A visible list of consequences. Always give some form of award for those that are good or have helped you. Keep a punishments desk at the front of the room to discourage bad behavior. Talk with them as your equal not down to them or at them your students will thank you for it and will usually listen to you more.
I so agree with the other answer--do not try and be a friend or confidant. I tell my student teachers to raise an invisible wall and think of it as the respect zone. They must see you as a resource for help but still the authority. Lay out your rules and procedures on day one and repeat all week until they can give them back to you. Try some team building activities the first few days and get a sense of community within the classroom. It isn't automatic with the 6th graders but a sense of being a family will make your life easier. (For ideas for that stuff e-mail me at teachingmomff@yahoo). Also, they aren't as independent as you might think they should be so adopt an ask 3 before me process. This will force them to listen and depend on each other, leave you in the role of advisor not boss, and cut down on the million senseless questions you get a day (what page? Can we write with a pen? When's lunch? Do we have PE today?) Later you can back off a bit and be more friendly once they understand the boundaries. One other hint--humor works over confrontation every time at this age. For example-- 2 boys punching each other in line, can't keep their hands to themselves. Asking why or stop it will most often get the response, what we aren't doing anything or he started it or stop what. Try instead, I didn't know the 2 of you liked each other enough to hold hands, or is this a dating problem we can help you guys with? They will fly apart and stay far apart with very little comment. Problem solved, no arguments. Hang in there, every day is different, every group too. After 11 years in 6th grade I still have no idea what will happen for the new year. Breath deeply, relax, go with the flow, and if all else fails sit down and laugh until everything makes sense again. Then start over tomorrow.
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