While the school year has already started for many schools, many others are still gearing up for their first day back. Getting back into the swing of things after a month or two away isn’t always the easiest thing to do, so we’ve pulled together some back-to-school tips for teachers to help you have the best back-to-school season yet! (And here are some tips for administrators, too!)
For starters, when it comes to classroom management, don’t stress over creating the Pinterest-perfect classroom, or planning out every single unit for the whole first semester. These tasks are very time- and energy-consuming, and having them ready for day one won’t affect your students’ first weeks of school as much as having an exhausted, unenthusiastic teacher would. Your back-to-school planning should focus on creating a welcoming environment for students during those first few weeks.
Before School Starts!
Many of these back-to-school tips for teachers can be helpful regardless of when school starts for you, but we categorized them partly based on the effort involved. And a lot of these ideas are especially great for new teachers or those looking to change up their classroom plan or teaching methods!
3+ Weeks Before School Starts
- Use a back-to-school pre-planning checklist to help identify all of your responsibilities in back-to-school preparation and think about major details ahead of time.
- Design your classroom management plan around six aspects: procedures, routines, rules, policies, discipline, and rewards/incentives.
- Plan out your first two weeks to include getting-to-know-you activities, pre-assessments, and key parts of your classroom management plan (like rules and procedures).
- Prepare for back-to-school open house night. Just remember that it’s impossible to squeeze everything you want to share into one night, so focus on the most important topics!
- Give students a sneak peek of their classroom and who you are with a classroom tour video.
- Communicate helpful information to students and parents, including the syllabus, homework calendar, links to important resources, and more.
- Decorate/organize your classroom to be enlivening and creativity-inducing. One third-grade teacher went with a Disney’s Cars–inspired theme to help her students “start their engines” for the new school year. One high-school coordinator decorated her credit recovery lab with a tree, and students added leaves for each credit completed.
- Check out some of our suggestions for back-to-school reading for inspiration and ideas for your classroom.
1–2 Weeks Before School Starts
- Introduce yourself and set the tone for the school year with a welcome letter—one to parents and one to students—either via email or snail mail. (What child doesn’t love receiving snail mail?)
- Establish a communication system with parents/guardians. And learn how parents can help their children be successful with online learning.
- See if you can utilize social media to connect with your students, particularly at the high-school level. Social media is also a great way to connect with parents of students in any grade level.
- Establish a filing/documentation process so that student work and reports are organized and easy to locate and understand later.
- Put together welcome packs for students that include your welcome letter and important resources they’ll need, as well as a couple “fun” materials, like a bookmark or “My Favorite Things” sheet to fill out for your class time capsule. (See the next section for more on this!)
- Familiarize yourself with any new technology your school may be rolling out for the new year.
- Prepare your classroom calendar and make a birthday chart.
A Few Days Before School Starts
- Review first-day and -week lesson plans to make sure your bases are covered.
- Plan an ice-breaker game or two to get to know students and help them feel more comfortable in their new classroom.
- Take time to reflect on your past successes and challenges, and make new resolutions for the new school year.
- Prepare and organize students’ desks, name tags, etc. as well as your own desk.
- Create a time capsule to be opened at the end of the school year. One first-grade teacher takes pictures of her students on day one, and has them complete a few sheets about their likes/dislikes, dreams, etc. Students decorate “time capsule” boxes, which they open on the last day of school.
- Print and laminate new resources to use in your classroom.
After School Starts!
These back-to-school tips for teachers can be used throughout the year, but they’re especially helpful reminders for the first month or two of the new school year.
- Provide specific, timely, and effective feedback, especially on assignments that require critical thinking and creativity.
- Keep in touch with parents/guardians on how their student is progressing, and consider holding monthly or bimonthly parent workshops.
- Get to know your colleagues. And if you’re a veteran teacher, get to know the newbies. A strong bond between teachers (of all ages and tenures) is important, and sometimes necessary to getting through those difficult days!
- Don’t exhaust yourself by trying to multitask. Give your full attention to one task at a time before moving on to the next one.
- Complete a project that you are dreading first thing in the morning. Get it behind you so you can enjoy the rest of the day!
- Ask your colleagues and administrator(s) for help when you need it, and remind students to ask you for help when they need it.
No matter what time of the school year it is, when the going gets tough, remember how important it is to focus on yourself, too. And remind yourself that at the end of the day, it’s all about helping students learn and grow. You’ve got this!