It is time again to get ready for a new school year! Like me, you might have a checklist of all the things you need to get done.
I inherited mine from another teacher about 15 or 16 years ago and have basically used the same one, with a few tweaks, every year.
Here are my top 10 best things to get done before the school year starts.
Make multiple copies of my class list.
Inevitably, my class list will change. Someone will leave and someone else will take their place. Usually I can get away with 85-90% accuracy when I make my class list so it’s worth it to make a few copies ahead of time. I make three lists – one by last name, one by first name and include the last name, and one by first name only. I put these into a table with 4 columns and use them all year for any variety of things – field trip permission slip check off, checklist for assessment completion, making sure each student has regular communication, etc. I use these ALL year long.
Make all the copies.
If you need to make copies, my best advice is to get that done at least 3 days before school starts. You know there are going to be new teachers, last minute hires, possible breakdowns, etc. It will offer you peace of mind to know that you don’t have to wait in line or find a copy center in a crisis moment.
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Create labels with the kids’ first names and make multiple copies.
It’s only October and a student lost her folder? No problem, let me slap a premade label on a new folder. Two students have the same snack bag and always mix them up? Easy! Put a label on it! Need 20 name tags for a field trip that you forgot to make? Here are labels with all the kids’ names on them.
Create name tags for field trips.
As mentioned above, easy enough to do if you forget because you have your handy labels. But get this one done and you will thank yourself all year.
Know their birthdays and write them down.
Last year I was on maternity leave for the first 3 months of school. Which meant I didn’t quite get a good handle on birthdays and let me tell you, it matters. It matters because that is a super important day for some kids. It matters because often there are policies about celebrating birthdays that parents sometimes need a reminder about. It matters because some kids don’t celebrate birthdays and you need to know that too. I made all the birthday mistakes last year. Don’t be like me. Know their birthdays. I’ll never make that mistake again.
Get snacks. That first week and a half is kind of crazy.
You get kids you didn’t expect, the copy machine breaks, you have a student who starts right in on the rule breaking when you haven’t even had a chance to sing their praises to their parents. And, inevitably, there are students who forget a lunch or snack. Find something nice and easy that even kids with allergies can have. Goldfish, pretzels, and fruit snacks are my go-tos.
Know how your students are getting home.
I have tried a few easy versions of this – surveys, emails, phone calls a week before school. But let me tell you, it all changes when there are smiling and crying faces in your room. Make a list, check it twice, have it nice and organized. Then, on day one, you call every single parent and make sure you have it right again. You won’t be sorry, especially when you get the last minute changes.
Assign a spot for students.
I have read different philosophies on whether or not you should assign seats to students. In the past few years I’ve learned a lot more about anxiety in children. What I’ve learned tells me that the students who need an assigned seat will feel the impact of not having it more than the students who need the freedom to choose will feel it. Once students feel safe and comfortable, you can switch it up and offer times when they can choose their own seats. But on day one, especially, students should come in and not have to make a decision that can be very challenging. I do this for any place they sit on the first day – the rug, tables, in the lunchroom, etc. Put yourself in the shoes of a child who is anxious and walk through their day. Then think about how you can help them.
Make sure your equipment works!
Use a projector? Check it out. Do you have speakers for music? Make sure they are charged and ready to go. Whatever kind of technology you hope to use within a week of the first day should be tested and ready to go.
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— Pearson PreK-12 (@PearsonPreK12) July 30, 2019
Find your book!
Building relationships is key to a good school year. My first read aloud is always with a book I love and one that I think kids will love too. They get to know a little more about you, books are amazing, it becomes a shared memory right from the get go.
That’s it! Good luck with the beginning of your year! You got this!
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— Pearson PreK-12 (@PearsonPreK12) August 7, 2019
Meg Howe is an elementary school teacher at a charter school in Boston, MA. She has been a teacher for 14 years spanning grades K – 5. Meg has spent time teaching in public, private, and charter schools in Bellingham, WA, Rome, Italy, Los Angeles, CA, Buffalo, NY, and Boston, MA. Meg also runs her own blog at AliceEverAfter.com that features her thoughts on children’s literature. She has a passion for picture books and middle grade books and hopes one day Kate DiCamillo can be her new best friend.