I know, I know - the back-to-school posts seem never-ending and along with the wish lists, to-do lists, and the don't forget lists, I don't know how teachers are not all ripping their hair out during this whirlwind of a time.
But in times of chaos, I like to bring it back to the basics. So the following are 5 teacher must-haves that I can always count on to ground me while gearing up for a new school year.
Simply making sure certain plans are in place organization-wise can help both you and your students. Consider making decisions on the following aspects of classroom organization:
* Work Submission - Where will students submit paper assignments?
* Communication Log - What platform will you use to keep track of student + parent interactions?
* Supplies - Where are extra supplies for you and for the students going to be accessible?
* Room Arrangement - What areas of your room are going to be open vs. off-limits?
And just to clarify, whether you identify as type A, B (or C), you're an amazing teacher.
But the old saying is tried and true - clear expectations and structured routines are key to a smooth and organized classroom environment. So what are the most important items to consider? Here's a list to get you started:
* Bathroom procedure
* Cellphone policy
* Beginning of class routine
* Attendance + tardiness
* Make-up work
* Grading and feedback
* Student questions
* Grading + feedback
* Classroom clean-up
* Seating arrangement
Another item that takes some time in the beginning, but saves me tons of time (and headaches) in the long run is a semester-at-a-glance. Whether digitally or on paper, one of the top pieces of advice I can offer is to create an at-a-glance plan for the semester or at least the first quarter. This doesn't mean that every single detail has to be planned out and prepped. Using a calendar with basic notes can work wonders to provide structure and alleviate teacher anxiety; start by filling in school-wide dates and then decide on the final assessment and plan backward from there.
As much as I LOVE digital everything, this is actually something I still do on paper. This is a website I've used over the years to customize and print my paper calendars to fill in. I like seeing two-three months at a time and then I fill in the bare bones as I reminder of what I planned. This is an example of my scribbled calendar.
See? It doesn't have to be pretty or perfect. It just has to make sense to you :)
And for this next one, it's something I wishhh I had started earlier in my teacher journey, but better late than never, right?
Due to the exhaustion the first few weeks bring with them, it's important to intentionally make time for yourself to do things that spark joy. Consider planning a 'Self-Care Saturday' during the first month back where you spend the day completing activities that help you relax/feel fulfilled. Planning it in advance also boosts your dopamine levels because it gives you something to look forward to.
And don't forget - your self-care doesn't have to look like anyone else's.
Self-care is also something really valuable to talk to your students about. I like to sneak it in whenever I can and the beginning of the year is one of those perfect times to do so because they're also just as overwhelmed as us. This is an example of a self-care bingo you can keep for yourself and/or share with your kids.
It's also part of this back-to-school resource where I mixed engagement and a little SEL in an interactive slide deck.
Lastly, an open and flexible mindset goes a long way.
While embracing change and staying adaptable can be difficult, it is helpful in the long run because it can help you cater to diverse student needs, explore new approaches, and/or collaborate with colleagues who otherwise might not have been given a fair chance. This season is full of chaos, constant change, and uncertainty, but being able to pivot is a teacher superpower.
Even with all the planning, the back-to-school season can still throw some curveballs your way. Perhaps you'll encounter unexpected changes in the curriculum, or maybe a new technology tool you were relying on decides to act up at the last minute. Remember, you're not alone! Teaching is an ever-evolving journey, and being flexible in the face of challenges is part of what makes you an outstanding educator.
To help tackle unforeseen obstacles, it's helpful to establish a support network. Reach out to your fellow teacher besties or join online teacher communities where you can share your concerns and seek advice. Collaborating with your peers can provide fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to handle any situation that comes your way. Remember, even superheroes need allies!
And after all, you are a superhero 💛 So, stand tall, wear that teacher cape proudly, and take on this new school year with all the superhero qualities you possess. You've got this!