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10 Back-to-School Musts for Teachers

Be sure these 10 items hit your to-do list to ensure the school year gets off to a great start.

By Lani Aquino

The first day of school is fast approaching, and teachers are already spending countless hours prepping their learning spaces, lessons, and overall mindsets to ensure it is a success. The summer has been spent scouring the back-to-school ads to find the best deals on all the supplies they contribute to their classrooms, attending classes and workshops to update their pedagogical approaches, crafting new lessons and activities to engage and motivate their diverse student populations, and much more behind-the-scenes work. As back-to-school prep enters overdrive in these final days of summer, this list of 10 Back-to-School Musts for Teachers should be posted front and center.

  1. Clear the clutter- That pile that was left as you tore out of the classroom in the spring needs to be addressed. Don’t find spaces for things with the intention of going through them later. Make the time now, pitch what’s not of use or hasn’t been used in ages, and reclaim your workspace.
  2. Personalize your space- Whether that space is a classroom, a cubicle, a cart, or even a wheelie crate, make it your own. By adding a few of your favorite photos, logos, phrases, etc. to a space, two things are being accomplished, teachers get a quick visual reminder that grounds them and students are able to see teachers as actual people with likes and interests for building connections.
  3. Prepare your management systems- A teacher may have the perfect system for running a classroom in his head, but if it isn’t communicated to students properly, it won’t be successful. Know your expectations and have a plan for sharing them with students. This could involve posting them in the classroom, preparing an expectation list to review, and/or planning activities to introduce verbal and visual cues.
  4. Practice run the technology- Unfortunately, tech use isn’t always flawless. Take some time to work out the kinks before students enter the classroom. Downtime in those first few days can be detrimental, so get the projectors and programs up and running before the newbies enter the learning space to ensure to the best of your abilities that tech glitches are obsolete.
  5. Create a welcome- Whether it’s a bulletin board, some fun décor, or an FYI/FAQ area for older students, take the time to construct a visual welcome to the learning space. Regardless of their ages, many students are anxious those first days, and time spent making them feel welcome to the shared learning space can do wonders for making them feel more at ease.
  6. Define the learning spaces- No matter the size of the classroom, there are going to be areas that have different functions and purposes. Students will be able to respect the space better if they have an understanding of how to utilize it. Take those first few days to introduce them to the reading nook, tech corner, supply center, etc. and the expectations for using each space.
  7. Organize supplies- Organize all those summer sale purchases and district bought supplies to make them accessible. A system of color-coded containers for table groups, specific activity supplies, and/or class period supplies can save a lot of time and waste when items are needed. This will also involve storing and holding some supplies back, so that the bins and containers haven’t run dry by the end of the first quarter.
  8. Own your grading system- Before school starts is the time that teachers need to determine the grading system that will (or won’t) be implemented. This is a system that is difficult to change once the school year is underway. Whether the plan is points, rubrics, or no grades, teachers need to be clear on their methods, how to report them, and how they will be shared with all stakeholders.
  9. Connect with staff- While you may want to spend all the prep time at school in the classroom and uninterrupted, it’s important to reestablish and foster relationships with the folks who make everything run smoothly throughout the year. While the saying purports that it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to teach one. Reconnect or connect for the first time with custodians, office staff, fellow educators of varying levels and subjects, administration, etc. These personal connections can be a lifesaver throughout the year, and they need to be nurtured.
  10. Devise a health and well-being game plan- Teachers are so busy thinking about their students that they often forget to turn any focus on themselves. Come up with a plan for packing lunches, a healthy snack stash, fitting in some exercise time (other than running back and forth to the teacher workroom), fixing healthy meals at home, etc. Taking some time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s imperative. Put the first all-about-you appointment/activity on the calendar and stick to it.

Let’s face it, this list of 10 could easily be 100. The hustle and bustle of getting ready to kick off a new school year is exhausting and often overwhelming. By ticking off some back-to-school musts, teachers will gain a sense of calm regarding the new school year, and students will feel more at ease and welcome as the next chapter in their educational journey begins. What other items fill out your back-to-school to-do list?

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

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