As summer comes to a close, the anxieties of going back to work can become overwhelming. Here are a few helpful practices to set you up for the new school year! Save yourself a little time and energy with these five important tips!
Planning & Organization
There’s nothing worse than flipping the lights on in your classroom and having no idea what you’re teaching that day. This next part is so important, especially for new teachers! If you’re not prepared, how can you expect your students to be? My advice is to plan ahead. Look at your state standards and long range plans for each subject and get ahead of schedule. Have your plans together at least a week out! Notice I said at least. This will help avoid any more anxiety than necessary. Where you put your plans is up to you! If you’re comfortable with technology then use a reliable outlet to keep track of your plans. If you’re old school and prefer to put pen to paper, then buy a planner that works for you (not just the trendy one from Instagram)! And if you’re like me, do both! I’ve learned the hard way that being organized with your planning is the key to success in your teaching. I use the most basic planner (found in my school supply room) to keep track of things during planning meetings. I like to use a pencil so that I can easily move things around. However, I also put my plans in a safe space online. I like to use Google Drive to store long range plans, grade level calendars, and important information about my class in case of emergency.
The most important thing about starting a new school year is getting to know your students. This goes beyond the basic information cards, name games, and Meet The Teacher. In order to have a successful year with your students academically, you have to have their trust. Take time during the first few weeks to really listen to your new students. One idea for this is implementing a morning meeting. This can look a number of different ways, but allowing the time to come together as a class family can make all the difference.
Be upfront with parents. No one likes surprises! Forming a good relationship with parents looks different than with your students. I’m not talking about making phones or sending postcards because let’s face it, we don’t have the time! Forming a strong rapport with parents is all about honesty. If you make your expectations known from day one, you will avoid so many problems. The short story emails are for the birds. Be transparent with both kids and parents about your classroom rules, behavior plans, and grading policies for the upper grades.
Tune Out The New & Improved
It’s no secret that the internet has been our best and worst enemy as teachers. We went from utilizing Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for ideas, to being suffocated with the latest TikTok trend. The old stuff still works and as long as your students are staying engaged I wouldn’t reinvent the wheel! When it comes to apps, only use what your school is providing. Also, consistency is important. There have been a number of new outlets for communication with parents in the last couple of years. Keep it simple. Emails can be exhausting and sometimes misinterpreted but let’s be honest, they’re quick and inexpensive. If you are looking for a user friendly and cost effective platform, consider Smore for weekly newsletters! It provides easy to read formatting with a clean flare. Hey, you could even split the subscription cost with a teammate if they’re interested!
Utilize Your Teammates & Other School Resources
One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is be a team player. I can’t speak for every school in the world but if you’re a general education teacher in a public school, you most likely work on a team. Your team is your number one resource as an educator. We all know that no group of students is going to be the same which is why our instruction should be differentiated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work together to achieve the same goal. Depending on the size of your school, you most likely have a team of 4-7 people. Use these people as a resource when a lesson doesn’t work out the way you planned. Use these people for advice on responding to a parent. Use these people for helping collect data. Your classroom should never be a replica of the one next door, but you have teammates who are going through the same things you do EVERYDAY! Talk to them, listen to them, share with them. Work smarter, not harder.
Lastly, don’t sweat the small stuff. Your room is never going to look as good as it did before the first day, your students are going to talk nonstop, and your boss is going to schedule meetings. All of those things are going to frustrate you, but none of them are going to change. Just remember to relax and roll with it! In order to be successful you have to learn to let things go. You are going to hit a million speed bumps throughout the year and that doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong! Take time to breathe and adjust your mindset. Each day brings new challenges and even more opportunities for growth!
Wishing you all a wonderful school year!