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Top 10 First Day of School Tips for Teachers

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 -- Sarah Cornelius

The big day is nearly here! And, whether it’s your first year of teaching or your 30th, we know that students aren’t the only ones with a few butterflies in their stomachs thinking about the first day back in the classroom. Take a breath and calm those back-to-school jitters with these 10 simple tips for a successful first day of class!

  1. Don’t expect things to go perfectly—you may have every minute planned, but don’t be disappointed when you don’t get through all of your lesson plans because an unexpected student arrives a few minutes late or announcements interrupt you.
  2. Arrive early so you have time to double (or triple, or quadruple) check that your room is set up as you want it and you’re ready and waiting to greet students at the door with a smile when they arrive.
  3. Make sure your name is written on the whiteboard, and be sure to introduce yourself right away so students can hear it spoken aloud. It’s also a great idea to have a short personal bio story prepared to share with students at the beginning to class to give them a little insight into who you are.
  4. Have a plan for supplies. Students come with backpacks full of supplies on day one, especially in the younger grades! Whether it’s community supplies (like tissues and hand sanitizer) or student supplies (like notebooks and pencils), you need to have a vision of where it lives in your classroom, how it’s organized and labeled, and the procedures associated with each supply.
  5. Lay out the ground rules right away. Setting classroom expectations isn’t exactly the most exciting topic you’ll ever cover, but it’s so important. Keep it simple, roll out expectations at the right time and then model desired behaviors, practice with students, and stick to them. Classroom management can be something you struggle with all year, or it can be a culture you cultivate early so you can get down to learning.
  6. When you take attendance for the first time, be sure to ask if students have name preferences—like a shortened version or nickname they like to go by.
  7. Have several tried-and-true ice breaker activities planned to help students get to know one another and start building a relaxed, community atmosphere in your classroom.
  8. Have a general daily schedule posted prominently in your room. If you’re an elementary teacher, this can include lunchtime, recess, music or gym time, or time that will regularly be dedicated to certain subjects. For secondary teachers, post your building’s class schedule so that students can orient themselves in their day no matter what period they spend in your classroom.
  9. Give a tour of your classroom (or your school even, for younger students) so that students know what different areas will be used for and where they can find different materials.
  10. Have day 2 planned. After you rock day 1, the last thing you want to do is go home to a panic attack that you’re no where near ready for the next day.

Of course, first and foremost, have fun! The start of a new school year is an exciting time for everyone involved. You have a whole year of getting to know these students and watching them grow—and that really is the most outstanding part of a teachers’ job. Cheers to another great school year!

Looking for a little extra motivation to get geared up for your return to the classroom? Check out these Four Inspiring TED Talks for Educators, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for daily teacher tips, education trends, and best practices delivered right to your inbox!