This year I am teaching kindergarten after a 10 year jaunt in the middle grades. I feel like a new teacher in many ways but I have a bag of tricks from my years of teaching to help me through the madness. Here are my top three tricks to surviving a new school year.
Tip Number 1: To-Do Lists
A teacher friend once told me that teachers don’t steal other teacher’s ideas, we borrow them. One idea I borrowed from another teacher is an AMAZING to-do list. Not your average to-do list, this is a one page sheet utilizing a table, in which two columns are broken into sections. I was a special education teacher when the to-do list was introduced to me. In one column, I designated three or four rows to each student on my caseload. In those sections I would add things like, “sign new IEP” or “get new fidget tool” under a student’s section. This year, as a kindergarten teacher, I have one column split into sections for reading, math, important emails/calls to make, and prep work to get done for class. The other column is a general to-do list for things like, “write names on popsicle sticks” or “buy more hand sanitizer.”
Tip Number 2: Set Up a Routine
The beginning of the year can be overwhelming. I like to have a routine for my before school and after school time. The school day can get hectic with random requests popping up. “Miss Howe, I know it is your lunch but can you come help your tantruming child?” A routine allows me the freedom to attend to emergencies during the day. In the morning I take down chairs, respond to emails, then go through my schedule to make sure all subjects are prepped as much as possible. If I have time, I check my to-do list (see above) to get started on a new task. Once all the little love bugs go home, I wipe down tables and put up chairs. Then I do a quick walk around the room to do some general tidying up. I make sure papers are collected in our “All Done” bin. I make sure books accidentally left out are put back where they belong. Then I set the pocket chart schedule for the next day. After I am set for the next day, I check emails and send emails or make calls that were added to my to-do list. If all that gets done and I still have time, I go back to my general to-do list and start crossing items off.
Tip Number 3: Don’t Forget to Laugh
Teachers, we have a demanding job. We have professional requirements (turn in those lesson plans!), classroom needs (sharpen those pencils!), and student needs (yes, Joey is crying because he misses his mom…again.) But in the whirlwind of our day, don’t forget to laugh at the silly side effects of those demands. Yep, it is annoying to get more hand sanitizer. But I got a giggle because of all the nose picking that requires the extra sanitizer is pretty funny. Kindergarten means singing cheesy songs so these kiddos will finally learn phonemic awareness gosh darn it. But it was so sweet when one little girl told me I have a voice like Ariel. Back to school has meant less time to work out. But I had tears in my eyes from laughing when one smiley little face looked up at me and said, “Whatcha keepin’ in that belly, Miss Howe?” No, I am not pregnant. Yes, I had a really great burrito.