After a career of new school years, I have picked out four vital items that should head every teacher's to-do list. They are not the most important things you'll do all year, perhaps, but they can make or break a good beginning, set the tone for a successful school year, and calm the butterflies that may have taken flight in your stomach. I can say this for sure: I wish someone had told me these things when I started teaching.
Plan for the first day. Really? That's news? I can't tell you how many years I spent frantically trying to make my classroom Pinterest-worthy (before Pinterest was invented), attend all the meetings, label all the file folders, pull all the data...then realize at 5:00 p.m. the day before the kids arrived that I had not planned for the first day! Serious heart-in-throat time. Before you put up a bulletin board, make desk tags, or attend a meeting, start sketching out everything that you will wish you had done or said on that all-important first day. Even when you're feeling the pressure, put on the blinders for a bit and focus on first-day plans.
Plan for the first week. Again, it may seem like something that teachers just naturally have done, but no, we don't always. Planning for the first week presumes that you've been given a schedule of bells, specials, lunch, and recess. Once you have that, it's vital that you look at your remaining minutes and divide them over all you have to cover.
Walk through your day as a student. Once you've planned your first day and week, physically move through all that you will ask your students to do, from walking into the classroom to lining up to restroom breaks to the last minute of the day. I guarantee this will highlight what works and what needs to be tweaked. You'll be glad you did!
Remember that less is more. I would never have believed it, but teachers can overdo it sometimes. One of my classes once told me that my classroom decor was overwhelming to them at the first of the year. As much as I appreciated the heads-up, I was totally taken aback. What? Kids don't always care for over-the-top decorations? Truly, when I stepped back and looked at it through kid eyes, it really did look like my room had thrown up on itself. Take this as permission to go minimalist, leave some bulletin boards bare - perhaps waiting for student work, and actually leave some stuff at Target for others. You can always add as you go and a little waiting can open your eyes to particular class needs and wants that you couldn't have anticipated.
Please share your best back-to-school ideas. Best wishes to everyone who is approaching a new school year!