Let’s be real, teachers don’t really get a summer break!! We are constantly thinking about the new school year and all of the things that we need to do. It can be quite daunting to have so many thoughts racing through your head when trying to prepare for a new school year. When getting ready for a new school year, us teachers need all the tips and tricks we can get! I’ve been teaching special education for 11 years and have put together the best 5 tips you need to hear when getting ready for a new school year!
1. Write Everything Down!
If you are like me and have random thoughts pop in your head about the things you need to do to get ready for the new school year, write them down! Create a to-do list on your phone (since we all typically have our phones with us!). Anything and everything that you think of that would help you prepare for the new school year. This will help you when it comes time to actually clock in and get to work.
Instead of being all over the place on what you think you need to finish, you already have a nice list written out to get started on. You can even go through your list and put all of the items that are most important at the top! We teachers love some organization, creating a list as you think of items will help you stay organized when getting ready for a new school year.
2. Schedule a Meet & Greet
We typically get our class lists ahead of time and get a few days before school starts to get our classrooms ready. This is prime time to schedule a time for your new students and parents to come meet you and see the classroom. IF you don’t get enough time in your classroom to schedule a meet-and-greet, consider asking your principal for more time. My bet is that they will love the initiative and want you to begin creating those meaningful relationships with new families.
Meeting new students and seeing them in your classroom before school starts could give you insight on their behaviors and personalities. Meeting your students ahead of time will help them ease into the classroom. We know transitions are hard, and they are hard even for parents!
More Information The Better
When planning your meet and greet, prep some easy “Getting to Know You” forms. These can be for your new or returning families to fill out! Parents get bombarded with paperwork at the beginning of the year, so having this prepared early will ease their workload. Check out these Back to School Forms on TPT by Simple Special Ed (affiliate link). For ease, you can print and go or even use the digital version! This resource will save you time and is a great way to collect important information about your students.
Meeting families and collecting information is the best way to be prepared and have everything in one place. You will need to gather information like medical concerns, behavior or sensory needs, or allergies. If you have a class party then these are all very important things to know It’s best to get all pertinent information at the beginning of the year. It’s also the best way to share important information with your para educators!
3. Create Schedule Ahead of Time
When getting ready for a new school year, it is best to jot down a basic schedule. Doing this ahead of time will give you chances to edit and refine before school actually starts. This is helpful when an Occupational Therapist or Speech Therapist hits you with their service times. You will be able to see your schedule as a whole and edit as necessary.
By creating a schedule, it helps your brain have time to process and think through all of the possibilities. By having an outline it will be easier to see if activities or items might need to change. Getting ready for a new school year comes with a lot of anxiety and stress. Coming up with a schedule ahead of time will help ease the stresses that come with a new school year.
4. Visualize Classroom Set-up
Setting up your classroom can either be an exciting time or a stressful time. Visualizing your set-up, even drawing a simple version of it can make it easier for the beginning of the year. If you are new and able to get into your classroom a few weeks before school starts, that would be ideal. Do an inventory of your furniture and items you have available to you. If you are a returning teacher, I recommend thinking about your space and changing what didn’t work last year. I understand no teacher wants to cut summer break short and go into the classroom, but weigh it with whether or not you want to feel relaxed and stress free! Getting ready for a new school year has never been so easy!
A teacher tip I wish I could share with everyone is to make your spaces clearly defined. You can do this with furniture or Velcro on the floor! I found these carpet velcro strips that are perfect for the classroom (affiliate link). These won’t leave tape reside on the carpet, which your school custodian will thank you for!!
5. Prep The First Month: Routines and Classroom Rules
I know this sounds scary. Prepping for a month at a time, nonetheless! Preparing to teach routines and classroom rules will benefit you in the long run. It might sound wrong to not focus on academics the first month, however, teaching routines will help once you do incorporate academics. Working on behaviors before academics will be truly life changing! Run through your whole schedule the first day. You can typically do everything in your schedule without focusing on worksheets or academics. If you do centers, just put out some manipulatives or highly preferred activities.
One last word of advice: start the routines on the first day. Do this on the first day if you will be lining up and eating at a certain table. It may be easier to eat in the classroom or to forgo lining up, but the following days will be tough because some students will want to stay inside and eat.
The main key here is going to be reinforcing them when targeted routines are followed. Students typically learn best when rewarded for showing you a certain behavior. You can then ease academics into the centers once the transitions and behaviors are followed without problem.