Having been a teacher for a while, I have a lot of back-to-school seasons under my belt. For new teachers, I have a list of ten back to school tips that will help you get started with your first back-to-school season! These ten tips and tricks will come in handy for those brand new teachers entering the teaching field right now.
1. GET A PLAN BOOK OR CALENDAR AND USE IT!
Whether you prefer physical or digital planners, choose one that works for you and actually use it. If you’re wondering about your options regarding planners, I do have some planner resources developed for you! I know some of you have good intentions, but a planner is something that will keep you and your students on track with the curriculum and your lesson planning. It will also help you keep track of your life outside of teaching. Some of you are rolling your eyes at the life outside of teaching comment, but if you have a planner you use, you can fit in activities outside of teaching! If you’re still deciding which planner is right for you, read Digital or Paper Planners? You Can Love Both!
2. SET LIMITS
Use your planner to help you set limits. Decide early in the school year how you will spend your time. We all know that it is easy to get sucked into your students and lessons and not give yourself and your family enough time. Don’t let that happen. Begin early to set limits and establish boundaries for your personal and mental health as well as the health of your family. Make a decision on what time you will come into the classroom, when you will leave, and what you will take home with you. It is okay if you can’t do everything, you’re one person and that’s impossible. For more ideas on taking care of yourself, check out the Top 4 Self-Care Tactics for Back to School that Work.
3. EMERGENCY SUPPLIES
Get a box or clear out a drawer for emergency supplies. It is a good idea to have a package of bandaids and antiseptic wipes available for your students, but you need supplies, too. Even with the limits you set for yourself, there will be late nights and days you forget things. In my emergency supplies kit I have hair ties, a brush, dental floss, nail clippers, touch-up makeup, deodorant, gloves, a scarf, socks, flip flops, batteries, birthday cards, thank you cards, and of course some snacks and candy for myself. In my classroom, I also keep an extra coat and an extra sweater in case the classroom gets cold because it has happened before!
4. PREPARE A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER BINDER AND/OR EMERGENCY SUB PLANS
There will be days you are not able to come into the classroom. Whether you or one of your own kiddos is sick, or some other unforeseen event occurs to keep you from school, I guarantee there will be times you can’t or don’t want to prepare sub plans. For those times, prepare something to keep subs busy all day. With fun activities, worksheets, books, and games, you will have plenty to keep your class busy on those days you just can’t make sub plans. For more tips, check out Substitute Plans Your Sub Wants You to Leave.
5. HAVE A NOTEBOOK ON HAND FOR CUTE KID COMMENTS
Kids do say the darnedest things and you will want to share those things with parents, coworkers, or just remember them for yourself. Grab an extra notebook to keep in an easily accessible place to jot down cute things you want to remember.
6. HAVE A NOTEBOOK ON HAND FOR DOCUMENTATION
While not as much fun as cute kid comments, it is a good idea to have another notebook on hand for documentation purposes. You may need to document behavior or things students say. You may also need to document the contact you have with a parent or with an administrator. By having an ongoing record with dates and times and a brief description of the conversation, you will be able to reference it better later. Unfortunately, it is better to have too much documentation than not enough sometimes.
7. CONNECT WITH YOUR COWORKERS
Take time to be kind to your coworkers. Your neighboring teachers will be a wealth of knowledge for a first-time teacher. Whether they have a style a new teacher would like to emulate or one they do not, a whole lot can be learned from veteran teachers. By being kind, friendly, and reaching out, you will probably make someone’s day and some lifelong friends in the process. Do not compare yourself to other teachers, though. Everyone is in a different place in their teaching career, has found things that work well and some that don’t, and has a different set of kids in their classroom. You are you, and should strive to do what works best for you, not your neighboring teacher!
8. DECORATE YOUR CLASSROOM
Find a fun theme that will bring you joy. Enjoy yourself putting up decorations and preparing a fun atmosphere for your students. Don’t go overboard, though. Find the line between enough and too much while bearing in mind the cost of materials.
9. BUY CLASSROOM SUPPLIES
Inevitably, you will have to buy classroom supplies. You may get a stipend to cover most of them, but it will probably not be enough. To help cut personal costs, buy in bulk and shop sales. My favorite way to do this is to shop the clearance sales for school supplies in October and save them for next year. Once you start doing this, you will always be ready for next year and will save yourself money over time.
10. DO SOMETHING FUN TO REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE TEACHING
There are so many rules, ideas, and people trying to help you that we often forget why we became teachers. Every week, do one fun activity that reminds you why you are teaching. Choose one thing that will have an effect on your students and yourself and remind one another why you’re in school together.
DON’T SWEAT BACK TO SCHOOL!
As a new teacher, back-to-school days can seem overwhelming. Just remember these few tips and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Use a planner, set limits for yourself, prepare emergency supplies for your classroom, be prepared for a sub, keep notebooks on hand for cute kid rememberings and documentation, connect with your coworkers, and decorate your classroom. These are the things that helped ground me as a teacher and I hope will be of benefit to you, as well.