When I think of “Back to School”, I immediately feel a dark cloud come upon me. Kind of like those cartoons. Not because I don’t enjoy setting up a classroom or because I don’t have an affectionate relationship with school supplies, but because it is so daunting. The to-do lists are insane, the expectations are high, and my personal experience tells me that you don’t get a re-do of day one. There is a lot of work involved in back to school prep, so today I am sharing a few things to focus on to help relieve the pressure.
Back to School Prep
There are a million things to consider when preparing to go back to school. If you are a new teacher you are likely thinking about all the different things you have learned and how you will implement everything. You likely want everything to look nice and cheerful. More than likely you have a somewhat idealistic view of what is up ahead and can’t wait to get into your classroom to get everything ready.
If you are a returning teacher, you likely are thinking about things you want to do different or things that worked well. I remember scouring the internet for ideas on make up work, missing work, and in taming the paperwork before my second year of teaching. I am fairly certain I was solely responsible for deforestation in 2006-2007. Thankfully, I pulled together some various ideas and came up with the Math Homework Agenda. It was a keeper and a great use of google.
So amongst all the “things to do”, what is most important? In thinking back to my seven years of back to school, here are a few (of many) areas that your time is valuable.
1. A well organized plan for day one.
What do you want students to do when they enter? Where will they sit? What information do you want to collect from them? What will you share with them about yourself? How can this be fun and engaging? How can you prep to have a successful first week of middle school?
I would suggest some fun activities to get to know your students, but also a few that would allow you to get that much needed paperwork done. Personally, I liked assigning seats as students entered the door. It allowed me to interact with them one on one, hear them pronounce their name, and I was able to personally welcome them to my class. You can also tell quite a bit about a student by the way they introduce themselves, wink wink.
2. Copies for the first week
The first week is crazy and the copier WILL stop working. It is inevitable, it is almost like a teacher truth. The copier will break, will not be set up correctly, will not recognize your username, will run out of paper. With an average of 50 teachers on campus trying to make copies for an average of 100 students, even if they only make one copy, the machine is making 5,000 copies. Multiply that times way more than 1 copy and you get roughly, one million (give or take:))
Every teacher in your building WILL be trying to prepare their materials. You WILL be tired and have ONE MILLION better things to do than stand in the copy line.
Shhhh, a little secret of mine: I always came back to school with my first week of materials ready to copy. I would even print them at home, so I wasn’t dependent on the network printers or technology to get something set up for me. Then, I would sneakily stay late when almost every teacher went home after the first long PD day. Copies, check.
3. A well thought out classroom
When I say thought out, I mean organized and planned. I do not mean decorated. I know there are differing opinions on how “decorated” a secondary classroom should be. At one school I taught, teachers were not allowed to post anything that was not on the small 4’x4′ bulletin board. At a different school, I covered all of my walls with fadeless butcher paper, borders, anchor charts and the like. I don’t think the level of “decor” should be the priority, as much as the functionality.
Do you enjoy entering it? You will spend a lot of time there. Does it feel inviting, warm, and safe? Your students will spend quite a bit of time there, too. Do you have a “place” for everything? Technology, papers, supplies, space to walk. Do students have to traipse across the front of the room to sharpen their pencil? Move that sharpener to the back, quick. Can you clearly see the board/screen/projector from each and every seat? This is a must.
So think through your day one (I may or may not have had a clipboard in which I typed every single thing I needed to accomplish), get your copies ready, and think through the functionality of your classroom.
Is the dark cloud dissipating?
Maybe just overcast?
Take a look at your to-do list. Is there something that can wait? Or something that may not be as necessary?