Tips For The First Week Of School
Can you believe it is already time to get back to school? Every year it seems like summer moves faster and faster. Will it ever slow down?
I don’t know where you are in your teaching journey this year. Maybe you are retiring after this year. Perhaps this is your first year back teaching exclusively in person (hybrid teaching is SO tough). Or maybe you are taking on this year as a new teacher, new to the profession, or new to the grade/subject area you are teaching.
No matter where you are in your teaching journey, I think it is safe to say that all of us will have our first day of school nerves!
The first day of school can be the day where you begin to establish your expectations, classroom rules, and set a precedent for how you will teach.
But the first day of school can also be a nightmare if you haven’t planned your routines and prepared well.
Here are some tips for making the first day of school a great way to set the tone for the rest of the year.
Tips For The First Week Of School
Be On Campus Early
Although most schools have a preplanning week, it is usually filled with things other than, well, actually planning. I know most teachers get some time in their rooms or come off the clock to prepare. However, there are always one or two last-minute things you’ll need to bring in, print, or laminate.
Once those last-minute tasks are complete, be sure to do these things:
- Write your name on the board!
- Have activities prepared and organized where you can easily find them.
- Test your technology.
- Have seating charts made.
A note on seating charts: We all know that seating charts change a lot at the beginning of the year. Even so, I always assigned seats at the start of the year because it helped me learn names. Also, I recommend a seating chart to prevent new students or shy students from feeling left out.
Meet Your Coworkers
You might be working in cohorts (all of the 3rd grade in one pod, all of the 4th grade teachers planning together, etc.), but you also might be surrounded by people in other grades or subjects.
The people you work closest to are the ones you’ll end up going to for questions, to bounce ideas off. Just make sure you also meet your neighbors, because they will be your first line of assistance if you need to send a student on an “errand” or need someone to watch your class while you run to the restroom.
You should also make a point of becoming familiar with the activity teachers! Having even a little connection makes it easier to discuss students and maybe working on a unit together.
Know Your Lesson Plan…
This is something we all are aware of, but I think it deserves to be said.
The first day of school is NOT the day to make things up and figure things out in the moment. You should have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your students by the end of the day before it begins.
…And The Procedures…
Make sure you have a total and complete understanding of procedures and expectations at your school and for your students. What are your nonnegotiables? How will you work with students to create a classroom environment together?
Things to know:
- What is the dress code?
- How do the bells work?
- What is the discipline procedure?
Be sure to create your emergency folder, so you have a student list ready to grab if there is a drill. (Probably won’t be on the first day, but you never know.)
…And The Layout Of The School
You need to know where the bathrooms are, for your sake and your students! You should also know where the cafeteria is and where your class goes during an emergency drill. This will help you feel more confident and students feel more comfortable.
For Your Classroom
At the beginning of your day (and probably various other times throughout the day/week), take a few minutes to go over the layout of your classroom. You want students to know where classroom supplies are located, where homework should be dropped off, where textbooks are kept, etc. Communicating this clearly will help alleviate (although not eliminate) confusion later on.
Focus on MIP (Most Important Procedures)
Think about the reality of every student in your school hearing procedures in every classroom they walk in.
How are they going to remember their fire drill exit in multiple locations?
With that in mind, discuss the most essential information on the first day, but remember that you have the whole first week to get them settled. Take time the first few days to get to know your students and help them meet each other.
Don’t spend your entire first day on icebreakers and rules. You are setting a precedent in your classroom, so show your students the expectation is to learn by teaching them!
I’m not saying that you should have full-on lessons prepared, but there should be some instructional time on your first day back. It could be small – like a read aloud and journal response or a whole-class game. You could also do an activity, like a quiz in my All About Me Flipbook, which helps you learn about your students – and see who can complete an activity independently.
Give Each Student A Fresh Start
Every student you teach will have had a different experience last year. Don’t let any knowledge you have of a student’s previous year influence how you see them. Give every student the opportunity to start fresh.
Of course, I’m not saying you should ignore helpful information. If you know from an IEP or a teacher friend that a certain student has specific needs, then by all means provide that support.
But what I found is students who were coined as “difficult” could just need a different place to connect. Don’t look at any of your students and assume you know who they are.
The first day (and week) of school can be overwhelming for everyone. Remember, you want to start the way you plan to finish. What expectations do you need to establish right from the beginning so students understand how to be successful in your classroom? Focus on those things the first week (or two!)
The most important thing for students to know is that you are on their team and you want them to succeed! Forming relationships with your students will pay dividends throughout the year. If students know your care about them and respect them, they will work harder for you and also respect you back. (For some students, this takes longer than others – don’t be discouraged if some students need more time to build that trust.)
Wanting someone to succeed can look like encouragement. It can also look like a challenge. No matter what the first day of school is for you, try to make sure your students begin to understand that you are there for them!
I’m wishing you the best of luck on your first day back to school!
Do you have anything special you do on the first day or week of school? I’d love to hear!