It's that time again, the start of a new school year. Not only do parents and students need to prepare for the first day of class, teachers need to get ready as well. There is a lot that needs to get done before school begins. Here is a back to school guide for teachers preparing for the new school year.
Develop your unique teaching philosophy. Over the summer break, reevaluate your teaching philosophy. What do you feel is most important about teaching and education? Think about how your past experiences may have changed your feelings about teaching and your approach to teaching. The idea here is to reflect on past teaching experiences so that you can be more prepared for your future in this profession.
Discover new lesson plan ideas before school starts. All teachers have their little box of "goodies” when it comes to lesson plans. These are the lessons that have always been big hits in the classroom. Don’t rely solely on these lessons however. Add to your lesson favorites each year. Summer is the perfect time to collect some new lesson ideas. Surf the web or borrow some fresh lesson ideas from other colleagues. Sharing and exchanging ideas is always helpful.
Get organized. After school begins it can be difficult to get organized. When you start getting organized before the school begins you’ll be able to establish routines that are easier to follow throughout the rest of the school year. Organize lesson plans, handouts and other written materials using folders and a filing cabinet with a working filing system. Go through your lessons to decide what worked last year and what didn't, and get rid of anything you’ll no longer need. Organize classroom supplies like pencils, paper, paint, etc., making sure that everything has a specific storage place to minimize clutter. Keep all sharp art supplies and any other unsafe materials out of your student’s reach.
Arrange your classroom to promote learning and minimize distractions. The goal here is to create a classroom environment that can keep children focused and on task. Keep potential distractions (windows, heaters, doors, group work areas, your desk, etc.) in mind when you arrange student desks or work tables. Leave room around student desks so that you can offer your assistance when needed. Keep high traffic areas and doors and windows clear. Sometimes it is a good idea to arrange desks facing the board so that the class can focus on your instructions. Students need to be seated so that they can easily see any presentations or teaching displays. Arrange your desk so that you will have a clear view of all of your students at all times. Make sure that any storage space and class materials are easily accessible. And remember to stay flexible once the school year begins. The room’s layout should meet your students’ instructional, behavioral, and organizational needs. You might decide after school begins that your classroom setup needs a little adjusting.
Create a comfortable classroom with a bit of personality. There are plenty of ways to make a classroom a little more unique and interesting. Use posters, bulletin boards, plants, class pets, and even classroom rules to reflect your own personality and teaching style. Create displays that will catch your students’ attention and spark their imaginations. Adjust the natural and electric lighting to ensure that the classroom is neither too bright nor too dark. Play with your classroom temperature as well. Being too cold or hot can be a big distraction for teachers and students. When you make your classroom a comfortable place you'll be more likely to motivate your students to learn.
Reach out to parents before school begins. Building trusting relationships with students’ parents should be a priority. Make contact with parents early on and plan follow up meetings during the school year. Mail home a letter or call parents directly to introduce yourself and describe your goals for the coming school year. You could also schedule a face-to-face meeting with parents before school begins to learn more about your prospective students. After the school year begins, maintain all of these relationships by giving regular updates on student progress throughout the year.
Reach out to students before school begins. Not only do you want to talk with parents before the first day of class, you want to form relationships with your future students as well. Mail a letter or postcard to each student introducing yourself. Describe a class activity that the class can look forward to on the first day of class or during the first week. Try to get your students motivated before they even walk through the classroom door.
Get acquainted or reacquainted with school policies. Whether it is your first year of teaching at a particular school or your fifth, take a close look at those school policies before school begins. Most schools will develop a handbook or manual for parents, students and teachers to read. Make sure you understand attendance procedures, fire-drills, dress code policies and school rules, along with school hours and other important information on how the school runs.
Talk with other teachers and colleagues. Other teachers can be lifesavers during the school year. Meet as much of the school staff as possible before classes begin, especially if this is your first year at a particular school. Other teachers can also clue you in on your students’ behaviors in the classroom setting.
Overplan for that first week of school. Have back up activities planned for when lessons run shorter than expected or don’t go as planned. Also, plan first day activities that will welcome students to the new classroom and get classmates acquainted with one another. Plan a fun way to introduce students to the rules and classroom procedures. Include a variety of activities in your lessons that will appeal to the different learning styles that your students will prefer.
Create a seating chart. Use student files and information from other teachers to develop a seating chart for your classroom. Do two students notoriously talk to one another during class without getting any work done? Use that information and seat them away from one another in the classroom. Be ready to adjust your seating chart after the school year begins when you know more about each student’s unique personality and attitude.
Make first day packets/folders and name tags. This can save you a lot of time on the first day of class. You could put important school papers, letters to parents, welcome notes, and important handouts in these packets. Include a pre-sharpened pencil and pre-made name tags also. Think about the age group you’re working with and the student’s first-day needs.
Develop classroom rules, consequences and procedures. Establish classroom rules that are positive, clear and concise. Some teachers will actually wait until after school starts to involve their students in the rule-making process. Others will feel more comfortable setting their own classroom boundaries. Use your own judgment here. For help in making your classroom rules you could refer to the school rules and your student’s personal school file. Decide on consequences for misbehavior and also a reward system if you choose to incorporate one in your classroom. Also, think about the procedures your students will need to know and follow when involved in specific classroom activities. How will transitions be handled? What about distributing and collecting supplies? How will you deal with homework assignments? What about cleanup and safety routines? Figure out your classrooms procedures ahead of time and tweak them after school if necessary. Post the daily schedule and class routines in a visible area.
The beginning of the school year can be a stressful time, not only for parents and students, but also for teachers. Be prepared for that first day back to school, and remember to stay flexible. Make the start of this school year an easier one.