Back to School {Advice from Your Favorite Bloggers}

Back to school is just around the corner.  What an exciting, and overwhelming, time of year it is for teachers.  The first day always feels like a blur (or, is that just me?), there are procedures and routines to teach, kids who don't know how they are getting home, new students arriving throughout the week, the pressure to delve into the content, and lots of emotions.

Overwhelming, right?  Sounds to me like some good old fashioned advice is in order.  I've called on all of your, and my, favorite bloggers to share their favorite piece of back to school advice.  Whether you're a brand new teacher, or a veteran, I think you'll be able to appreciate these words of wisdom.

Jaime, from Bright Concepts 4 Teachers says:
"Spend the first couple of weeks going over, repeating, and reinforcing classroom procedures and expectations. It may seem boring and unproductive to do but it will pay off the rest of the year when your classroom runs seamlessly, even when you aren't there!"

Alexis, from Laugh Eat Learn says:
"Create a checklist of tasks and procedures you want to accomplish by the end of the first week of school, rather than a schedule to follow.  No matter how prepared you are, you'll be running around starting on day one, and time will slip away.  So, instead of sticking to a schedule, create a list of tasks and procedures and check them off as you go.  Remember, every year is different and one task or procedure may take longer to cover than it did the previous year.  Be flexible and know that your end goal is to complete the checklist by the end of the week, not the end of the day."

Ashley, from One Sharp Bunch says:
"Teaching routines and procedures during the first week of school is so incredibly important.  Don't feel overwhelmed or pressured to address every academic subject during that first, second, or even third will get there!  Routines and procedures must come first, especially with our little learners.  Otherwise, you will be wasting valuable instructional time as you reteach procedures and manage undesired behavior later in the year.  Remember to explicitly teach these routines, model them, practice them, as well as discuss and reinforce them.  Be clear and consistent with your expectations.  Remember not to get upset or frustrated when routines aren't going smoothly.  Simply stop the class, model, and practice that routine or procedure until the students get it right. The payoff for teaching and practicing these routines will be HUGE! A well managed and oiled classroom will run itself.  In the words of Fred Jones, 'Do it right, or do it all year long!'"

 You can grab this free printable here.

Nicole, from Today in Second Grade says:
"Things take time. It is so important not to rush through little things like getting organized or lining up because it's those things that are most important.  If we take the time to really teach and practice organization, structure, and routine, our year will be so much smoother.  I have often wanted to rush through that kind of stuff and get right into the 'teaching.' But, it's worth slowing down lessons and getting classwork done the first few weeks.  In the long run, we will gain back all that extra time spent at the beginning of  the year."

Leslie, from First Grade Frenzy says:
"Model, model, model! I always forget how much modeling we need to do at the beginning of the school year with our students. It's important to get our classroom routines and procedures organized. However, we need to model our expectations for our students and then with our students, so that they are successful."

Elyse, from Proud to be Primary says:
"Classroom management is key.  You can set up the perfect classroom decor, have all your materials organized, and have the most fabulous lessons ready, but if those management strategies are not ready, it can be a hard beginning.  Having a few tricks up your sleeve will make for a smoother beginning.  Your students will be looking to you for the answers and you need to show them that you have them."

Such wise words from Elyse.  Remember, you are the expert, you set the tone, you set the pace, you are the one establishing the framework for a successful classroom.  Which means that you need to know ahead of time how you are going to do this and how you will respond to any hiccups that first week (and there will be hiccups).  Be prepared and confident, your students are counting on that.

Marcy, from Saddle Up for Second Grade says:
"It is so important to start building your relationship with each child from day one.  Make a point to have a one on one conversation with each child, every day, even if it is something small like saying good morning.  You want each child to feel special in their own way when they enter your classroom.  Learn their likes and dislikes, outside of the classroom, and then use  that knowledge to build a strong relationship with each child and tie it to their learning."

Elyse, from Proud to be Primary says:
"Show kindness, patience, and fairness when dealing with your students.  Try to remember that they are learning and part of that means making and learning from their mistakes.  Help them not only learn the curriculum, but teach them how to be socially responsible."

Deirdre, from A Burst of First says:
"Remember that they are only little and no matter what you do, they will love you."

Angela, from Hippo Hooray for Second Grade says;
"Put something on every child's desk in the morning.  Something that your students can be independent with, but will take 15-20 minutes to complete.  Some ideas could be a coloring page or an 'All About Me' poster. When your students arrive, they will work on this activity, which will allow you to dry the tears, answer parent questions and ease their apprehensions, collect paperwork, and so on."

Molly, from Lucky to Be in First says:
"Walk away at a set time every day.  Cutting out laminate, cleaning every crevice in your classroom, and perusing through teacher resource books can wait! Go home, spend time with your family and friends {or at the very least, kick back and watch TV}!  There is always something you can do, but you also have a life that you deserve to enjoy."

Aris, from Sailing Into Second says:
"Create a tidy tub for each table so students can throw away their trash as they work and one person can walk the tub to the recycling bin. Tidy tubs prevent your littles from making an even bigger mess by trying to carry all their little scraps to the big recycling bin in the classroom."

Cyndie, from Chalk One Up for the Teacher says:
"When decorating your classroom, do what makes you happy, because chances are, it will make your students happy too.  Do not feel the need to fill up every space in your classroom, and stick to colors you love.  A few years ago, I had an overdecorated primary colored classroom.  I loved it, but I grew tired of it quickly.  By winter break, I was over it.  Last year, I decorated with black backgrounds and added pops of color. I loved it and I got many compliments on it."

I'm hoping that since you're here, you might be okay with hearing some advice from me too.  Hehe.

My advice: Go slow to go far.  You can't expect to teach your students anything if they don't know how you or your classroom operate.  Kids need structure and it's up to you to set that framework for them.  Know ahead of time the things you need to teach them so that they can be successful academically. And then, take the time to explicitly teach them these things.  The key is taking your time.  You can't rush this, you need to go slow.  The payoff is worth it in the end.  Every year, I tell myself to resist the urge to jump into our curriculum.  It will get done.  It will!  But, it won't get done if I have a class full of students who don't understand my expectations, routines, procedures, and rules. Take the time to teach these things, and then teach them again.

You can grab this free printable here.

And, don't forget to build your classroom community. Get to know your students. Talk to them, listen to them.  Let them know that they are safe, welcomed, and accepted. Once all of these things are in place, your students will go far and you will get through all that curriculum.  You will.

I hope you've been able to take away something from this post. I wish you all a successful and fun-filled back to school season!


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