The new school year is around the corner, you may not be ready mentally and are wondering where the past few months have gone. Either way, the start of another school year is upon you, and though it is possible you have had this experience many times before, there is inevitably some preparation involved. Your goal is to start the school year off right.
Often, the decisions you make on the first day of school set the tone for your students until at least January. You want your students to have a successful academic and enjoyable school year, but you also want a successful year of teaching with as few issues and stressful moments as possible. The planning you make for the school year may take some time initially, but later it will save you time as well as prevent unnecessary stress.
There are several things to think about when beginning a new school year. The first, of course, is the students but everything else is related to their learning and individual needs to help them have an enjoyable and successful school year.
- Students: How many students will you teach? Review the class lists and records of your students. Are there special accommodations or lesson modifications that will need to be made? Do you have the contact information for each student readily available? Are there new first-time students attending your school? On the first day, plan a class icebreaker to help students connect with each other.
- Parents: Communication is the key to a successful and positive relationship with your students’ parents and family members. Establish a clear path of communication between the home and school. Inform the parents of your main method of communication whether it be via email, texts, web page, written notes, or phone calls. Parents should feel comfortable reaching out to you about anything related to their child’s educational needs.
- Curriculum: If using textbooks, make sure there are enough for your class, including supplemental materials like workbooks, science or art supplies, paper, etc. There are websites like clarendonlearning.org to give you additional content and work for your students to supplement your lessons. Are your bulletin boards ready? Do you have some ideas for future displays? If using online content set up by a publisher, have you reviewed the access details, necessary student log-ins, passwords, etc.? Are you using a website, and is it ready, and more importantly, will you be able to sustain it?
- Organization: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” The more organized you are, the more time you will have for teaching- hopefully, the reason you chose the career you did. This includes the supplies you use, lesson planning strategies, grading, scheduling, and other matters that are often forgotten but should be routine, easy to accomplish, and not time-consuming.
- Classroom Management: Whether teaching a single subject or in a self-contained classroom, it is vital that you have reflected upon what classroom management system you will use. What rules will you use? Regardless of the system you choose, it must be consistent and should include rewards and consequences. What are the consequences for students who break the rules? What are the rewards for students who follow the rules?
- Self-Care: Many teachers begin a school year pledging to themselves to eat healthy lunches, avoid the vending machines, and if time, take a walk during their short lunch session. However, the days get busy and all those plans go out the window after about the first few weeks of the new school year. Do not allow that to happen. Plan a daily routine for eating a healthy lunch and getting enough exercise whether before school or immediately after school. Ask other teachers join you on a short 30-minute walk each day. You could also use that time to vent about your day or discuss ideas for a student who may need intervention. A healthy you will lead to a better experience for your students throughout the school year.
- Miscellaneous: What changes have been made by the administration in your district or the principal who might influence your teaching or employment? Review crisis information, fire drill exits, and other emergency procedures and important phone numbers. If applicable, make sure your keys work, the students’ lockers are assigned, their desks useable, and other important details that are often overlooked.
These are just some of the helpful ideas to review before the start of a new school year. At some schools, the district allows teachers several days of preparation time, but at others, the prep time must take place between in-service or staff events or meetings. Regardless of the amount of time you have available, there are things that must be done prior to a student walking into your classroom.
Many of the tips may be second nature to most veteran teachers, but the reminders can be helpful reinforcers for what needs to be done to start off each school year right.