“When does school start?”
This pesky question still gives many teachers an itch of excitement, but with a touch of anxiety. Our brains recall the endless (mostly pointless) paperwork, lengthy staff meetings (could have been an email), and long days/nights spent differentiating lessons (because really, every student has an IEP).
Those teachers who are new(er) to the profession (or just bored with summer) will likely dive right into the planning/prepping phase – maxing out their credit cards in the dollar section of Target, ordering fancy borders on Amazon, and even decorating his/her classroom before its required to go “Back to School.”
On the other hand, many veteran teachers will have a fleeting thought about school, pour themselves a glass of wine and binge-watch Netflix for 10 hours.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I have days where I spend countless hours perfecting my class website, followed by days of watching HGTV on the couch with my dog. I’m excited, but I’m not. I’m indifferent. I’ve got this in the bag.
Honestly, most years right before school starts, I am a flurry of productiveness. My classroom is nicely decorated, my syllabus is complete and everything is exactly how I want it. That is, until the kids actually show up and rock my world. I then realize that those anchor charts where I spent hours crafting bubble letters were actually not valid. I will never reference them the entire year. Also, that bathroom pass policy was a ridiculous idea. Oh, and all that time I pondered over the seating charts was wasted because I have to move everyone anyway.
If you aren’t catching my drift, it’s this – Don’t overdo the before-school prep!
Sure, you should be prepared, but there is no need to overdo it, especially when your ideas change once you meet your students or when administration decides to throw you a curve ball and take away your lunch duty. Stuff happens and time is precious.
Spend time on this, not that when prepping for Back to School
- Iron-out policies with your grade team – If you teach middle or high school, you likely teach with a team of teachers. It’s important that you’re all on the same page with some of your policies, especially in middle school where students are new to changing classes. What is your team’s policy on late work? Homework? Behavior? Everyone does not have to have the same teaching style, but the more consistent your main policies are, the better the students will behave and perform. Plus, it makes conferences with parents easier when your team members can back you up!
- Class Website – This day and age, most things are done online. If your students will have access to a computer, why not put their assignments online? Creating a class website makes for easy communication to students and parents. I use Google Sites because my school uses apps for education and I can seamlessly add assignments via Google Drive. For a tutorial, check out this page. Once your website is created, put a hyperlink to it in your email signature. This ensures that parents, students and administrators can easily access your website.
- Set up your classroom library – If your school has a library, then lucky you! This probably won’t take you very long. However, if you’re like most teachers in urban settings, you probably lack a real library. No matter what subject you teach, a classroom library is important. For ideas on how I organize my library, check here. For ideas on adding some pizzazz to your library, check here.
The “other” no-so-important stuff about Back to School you should not waste much time on:
- Classroom set-up – If you’re an elementary teacher, ignore this. I’m always amazed at how awesome those classrooms look. However, classroom set-up is something I’ve always despised, which might be why I took the middle/high school route when pursuing my degrees. Sure, hang up some posters, arrange desks, etc, but don’t stress yourself out over which anchor chart goes where. My students LOVE helping me with anything, so I tend to save most of the classroom set-up for them. They make my charts, hang my posters, file papers, etc. Allowing students to be a part of the classroom set-up makes them even more invested when their peers are disrespectful to the space.
- Lesson plans – Please, do not over-plan your first week. Nothing will go as planned anyway. You’ll likely want to build community with your students (icebreakers, games, etc.) Maybe you want to do a diagnostic assessment. Regardless, do not jump right into curriculum. Instead, be sure students understand your policies and classroom norms/rules. I usually have my students come up with the class norms themselves.
- Bulletin Boards – Ugh. These are my nemesis. I am not creative, so Pinterest is my savior here. Again, I have students usually do these. They have much better artistic skills than I do, and they enjoy seeing their work on display for the entire school.
What are some things YOU do and don’t stress about when it comes to “Back to School?”