Back to school is upon us, and whether this is your first school year or your tenth, a little list of back to school tips never hurt anybody. I write you these 5 back to school tips with the hope that you have a wonderful school year and the knowledge that you’re going to do amazing things.
1. Get Organized
Sometimes teaching can feel like a race where we’re all just trying to make it to the finish line in one piece. Give yourself a head start by having you and your classroom organized. Here’s how!
- Organize School Supplies – Community school supplies need their own space where they are organized within labeled containers. Whether you’re using a rolling cart with drawers or baskets, use labels to tell where each supply can be found. I recommend having a spot for pencils, scissors, crayons, glue sticks, etc. Having their containers labeled with pictures also helps your English learner students easily locate and return supplies even if they can’t yet read the word in English.
- Organize Your Desk – This may seem silly, but doesn’t everything feel better when it’s neat and organized? For me it does! If you’re a post-it note abuser like me, we should work on that this year. Let’s try for fewer post notes scattered all over the desk, and instead, one spot where they’re all located or even better all of our important information in a notebook. I also encourage you to have the supplies within your desk organized. That way when you’re in a rush to find something, you know exactly where to go.
- Organize Papers – As teachers, we end up with so many papers. Whether it’s completed student work, forms we need to complete and send home, or permission slips, papers can easily take over our classroom. Consider having tiered trays, hanging folders, or rolling carts to keep all of your papers organized and accessible. Skip the paper explosion this year; get those papers in order!
These tips may seem simple, but having organized areas within your classroom will help both you and your students easily find what you’re looking for.
2. Teach Routines and Procedures
Whether you’re a classroom teacher or an ESL teacher, having routines and procedures in place helps your students know what to expect. Especially for English learners, knowing the layout of their day is important because it prepares them for what will come next. Here are a few ways to do that.
- Post Schedules – Have a copy of your schedule posted on your board. I love schedules with the time, subject, and a picture. When you have a schedule posted for students, they can reference it to know how much longer they have in a particular subject, when lunch will be, and more. This will set students at ease and lower their affective filter, which we always want.
- Practice Routines – Some teachers have several routines while others only have a couple. No matter how you run your classroom, it’s essential to have students practice the routines that you have in place. If students are expected to walk down the hallway quietly with their hands at their sides, practice that. Or if students must push in their chairs before lining up, practice that. There are a variety of routines that can be added to your day. Help students by practicing them over and over so that they know what to expect.
- Talk Students Through What’s to Come – Whether you’re reviewing a schedule or practicing routines, talk students through what’s to come. As you’re reviewing your schedule, give students more information. After our math activity, we will clean up our desks, push in our chairs, and we will walk to lunch. Then show students how to do those things and narrate your actions as you model. Practice makes perfect, and explaining what you’re doing or what you expect will only help your students rise to your expectations sooner.
Teaching routines and procedures are the best way to start your school year off smoothly.
3. Make Learning Fun
I know there’s a lot of pressure to help students perform well on their end-of-grade testing and make good grades. Trust me, I know all about that. And while it’s important to help with those things, it’s important to have fun while we’re doing it!
When students are engaged in what you’re teaching, they’re more likely to pay attention and learn something from it! Want to know the best way to make learning fun in my opinion? Playing games. Here are a few of my favorite ones to add to your classroom. Don’t see what you’re looking for? I have plenty more here.
- Multiplication Fact Fluency Game – Are you working on multiplication this year? This fact fluency bundle reinforces each fact family’s products by having students draw a task card featuring an equation. Students solve the equation and find the product on their game board.
- Verb Games – Kids love board games and card games. This resource includes six games that reinforce irregular verbs. Play these during small group time or with a partner and watch as students begin to master irregular verbs in no time proving that we truly can play to learn.
- Timed Tests – Here’s the thing with timed tests. They can be stressful, or they don’t have to be. I always create a calm environment for my students, so that as they’re completing their timed tests, they know that there’s no judgment or pressure. I just want to see what they can solve and how quickly. I even turn on instrumental music in the background and dim the lights to provide a low-stress atmosphere for students. This resource features timed tests for multiplication facts for families 0-12.
4. Have a Support System
Whether it’s one coworker or five, have people that you can turn to at work. I recommend finding at least one of each of the following:
- Someone you can ask questions to – We all have questions, and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask them! Find a veteran teacher, instructional coach, or someone else that you can turn to when you have questions. This person may vary depending on the nature of the question.
- Someone you can learn from – You’re an amazing teacher. I truly believe that. But even amazing teachers have things to learn. Find someone to learn from. Maybe you’ll want to learn from their expertise in content, behavior management, or even decorating their classroom. Just remember, it’s important to learn from others.
- Someone you can lean on – We all have those days sometimes. When you’re having one of those days, it’s important to know that you have someone who gets it. It’s also important for you to be that shoulder to lean on for someone else! Rely on each other during the tough days and moments.
Whether you have a big support system or a small one, try to build one to help yourself grow this school year. You’re not in this race alone!
5. Set Boundaries for Yourself
This may be my most important tip. Teaching is oh-so-rewarding, but it can also be downright tiring. Set boundaries for yourself and your mental health to help you make it to this year’s finish line. Here are some ways to do that.
- Prioritize Your To-Do List – As teachers, we have never ending to-do lists. We’re truly never caught up. Each morning, take a look at your to-do list and prioritize three items. Plan to have those three most important things done by the end of the school day and plan to tackle the rest tomorrow. Didn’t finish up? Ask yourself, is it urgent or can it wait another day? Most of the time it can!
- Leave Work at Work – That means no stressing on the weekend or during the evenings. When you’re home, be present. Enjoy your time there. If you’re finding that you can’t do that, try to think of ways that you can maximize your planning time during the school day so that you can enjoy your time away by focusing on your personal life.
- Know That You’re Doing Your Best – We all have days where we feel like we aren’t doing enough or that we aren’t cut out for this, but please give yourself some grace. Know that you’re showing up and giving it your all each day and that’s enough.
Please try your best to focus on your self-care during the busy school year. Good self-care prevents burnout.
I hope these tips helped! No matter what year you’re on, I hope that it treats you well. I’m so proud of you!
Want to take a look at the resources featured in this post? Click below: