A Few Thoughts to Consider for the Beginning of the School Year

It’s the beginning of the school year! While this is an exciting time of the year, it can also be a stressful time. It is a time that is busy and there is a transition in routines, so there is a lot of newness to this time of the year. In order to keep the classroom as calm as possible, I keep the following ideas in mind for this time: 

  1. Get the classroom organized! For me, everything works better when all of the materials are organized and put in a designated place. I try and have my desk space and teaching materials organized and know where everything is so that I can easily access what I need when I need it. For many of us, we will be returning to the physical classroom for the first time in 18 months. It will be an adjustment for us, as teachers, and for our students who will have to re-learn the habits they had developed before the pandemic. I also like to have the students’ materials as organized as possible so that I can establish routines with them the first few days (and weeks!) of the school year. I like to think of this as outer order contributing to inner calm! 
  1. Learning students’ names as well as something about each student: Kids feel special when you know their name and they feel even more special when you know something about them. Take the time to learn the names and interests of the students in your class. It shows them that you care about them and are excited to have them in your classroom this year. 
  1. Getting to Know You Activities: Before diving into the content, I suggest taking some time to have the students work on activities and assignments that will help you get to know them as well as have them learn about each other. When teaching content from the official curriculum, it supports students when you can connect to their lives and interests. One way to make strong connections to the content is to know some information about the students. Consider activities that are engaging. Here are a few ideas from a former blog post
  1. Communicating with Parents/Guardians: As a parent, I get a ton of emails from the school and from my daughter’s teacher. At the beginning of the year it can be hard to remember the information that is in each email. Consider sending a physical letter home to parents introducing yourself and also including any specific information about the class that you wish to share or reminders for families. Some examples of information you wish to share can include the daily schedule, any additional materials or supplies that need to be sent in, and a few activities that the students have completed during the first few days of school. One reminder – when sending notes home to families – this includes physical notes as well as emails – remember to check over your spelling and read it over before sending it out. 
  1. Reflecting on the first few days and weeks of the year: Anything new can be stressful, and the beginning of the school year is no different. This year, like last year, the beginning of the school year feels even more stressful than normal because of the pandemic. Take some time to reflect on the first few days and the first week of the school year. Think about what is going well and what changes you need to make in the classroom and to your teaching so that you can best support and teach your students. I like to take a quiet moment to think about all that happened during the first week and consider what to continue doing and what to change before the students come back for the second week of school. 

At the beginning of the year, I am mindful of not rushing into teaching content from the curriculum right away. During my first year teaching fifth grade, I felt pressure from other teachers who had been teaching much longer than me, to jump quickly into the math curriculum. Boy, did that backfire! Instead of feeling pressure to begin teaching the official curriculum right away, take some time to get to know your students and to set the classroom routines so that you do not need to constantly explain the expectations and classroom procedures. I have always found that once the students were familiar and comfortable with how the classroom ran, I was able to move more efficiently into the curriculum. Additionally, I do not suggest formally assessing students at the beginning of the year. Use the early weeks in the school year to learn about the students and build the classroom community. You also want to make sure that the students are comfortable in the classroom, with you, and with their classmates. There will be plenty of time to conduct assessments in the coming weeks. 

Enjoy this fresh start to the school year! And, enjoy the students who you will be working with and learning from this year. Here’s to a great school year!