Back to school is a crazy busy time for us teachers. I don’t know about you, but even after a decade of teaching, I always seem to begin the school year feeling overwhelmed combined with way too many things on my “to do” list.
Back to school is always going to be manic, no matter what we do, but here are eight things I do before the school year starts that helps me gain a smoother transition from summer to full-on work mode:
1. Organise class lists
If you can get your hands on a class list before school goes back, then it is GOLD. I do two things with my class list. The first is easy. I make 20 copies and put them in a plastic sleeve and place in a desk drawer, ready to use at a moment’s notice. The second thing I do is type the names in a word document. I use a table so I can trim them and every name has the same sized rectangle (yes, I am a ‘Type A’ teacher!) I also make it in 2 different sized fonts and print out a whole heap of them. I laminate copies for classroom charts and displays such as reading groups, math groups, birthday charts, job lists etc. The others I keep to label things like workbooks or artworks.
2. Consider your classroom management/behaviour strategy
It is tricky to know what is best when you don’t know your students yet, and yes, every cohort is different, but you need to go into that classroom prepared. Set something up, get your head around how it will work, what rewards the students will earn, if you need any visuals etc. Explain it to your new students on the very first day and start putting it into action immediately. Effective classroom management is always well thought out and focuses on the positive, keep this in mind when you are preparing.
3. Laminate, Laminate, Laminate
I try and prepare everything I can for displays, bulletin boards or games before I head back to school. While on holidays, laminating in front of the TV isn’t so bad, and it gets my classroom looking like the sort of learning environment kids want to come and learn in all day. I try and make sure birthday charts, door displays, unit titles, job charts, math and spelling posters are all printed, laminated and ready to be put up. I also organise literacy and numeracy games in preparation for learning stations. If you are low on time, consider asking some parents to help you laminate and cut when you get back to school. Parents love to help out and this could be a way to save yourself some time.
4. Organise your teacher desk
Start out on the right foot and get that desk organised and into a space you want to sit at in the afternoon to mark books, complete programs and do ‘all the teacher things’. Put something personal on your desk like a photo or a bunch of your favourite flowers and make it feel homely (after all your classroom is your second home!)
5. Copy and File
Create a list of some fun back to school activities you want to complete with your students during the first week. Make copies of anything you may need to complete them (I always copy any pre-assessments at the same time). By doing this, you will hopefully have a week worth of tasks to get started on and perhaps some extras, just for good measure, which means you won’t need to line up to make copies with everyone else. While on the topic of copies, carefully think about how you will file and store any paper resources you have (trust me, getting started on this straight away will save a huge pile of disorganised papers and a lot of time later). I’ve always kept mine in large binder folders, organised by subject, but I recently worked with a teacher who just kept a plastic envelope folder in the bottom drawer of her desk and put everyone for that term inside it. It was actually a great system because it took no time to do and it was really easy to retrieve something if we needed to go back or when a student was absent.
6. Purchase a Teacher Planner
It doesn’t matter what sort of planner you get, but I don’t know any teacher who can run a classroom without one. Purchase a planner and record all the term dates and holidays in it ready for the first day back. I like to note any events or deadlines in red in my planner, so they jump out at me when I open up my weekly spread.
7. Set a personal goal
As teachers, we are lifelong learners. Admin always has ideas of what they want us to learn professionally (I’ve been on both sides of that coin). However, it is essential for us as professionals to pinpoint something we want to work on independently. Every year, I choose one thing I want to do better in the classroom. I research it during the summer and start to implement changes in my practice straight away. I’ve found this the most effective way to grow professionally and keep my passion for education alive.
8. Timetable in some self-care
Self-care is essential for everyone, and I am the first to put my hand up and say I always put in the hours when the school year begins and forget that giving myself time is important too. Before the break ends, be purposeful in scheduling yourself a bit of time to do something you love. It might be a manicure, reading a book in the sun, a massage or coffee with a fabulous friend. You will thank yourself later! (Want self-care ideas -> Check out this blog post).
We could spend the entire summer preparing for back to school, and we would probably still feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the school year. The key is to prepare what you can, rest and relax by knowing that you have survived the start of the school year before and you will again!
Looking for some back to school inspiration? Check out these time-saving resources: