The month before school starts is usually such a whirlwind of printing, laminating, planning and preparing that when you finally get into the classroom with your students, you realise that the work is only just beginning!
With your beautiful classroom set up, the first few weeks of school can be equal parts exciting and challenging. Especially for new teachers, trying to juggle first year teacher organisation with lesson planning, parent communications and the daily grind can be a challenge - my DMs are filled with new teachers asking me - “Will it always be like this?!?!”
A shiny new classroom is your blank slate for a great year! IG - @learningwithmiss_campbell featuring my Spotty Brights Classroom Decor
Well BFF, the good news - not only will it not always be like this (I promise!!) but I have a few tips for a new school year to get you on the right track.
Here are my top five things to do right now at the start of term to set yourself up for a successful school year!
If you need to create an affirmation that says “I am going to have a great school year,” then you have my full support BFF! IG -
featuring my Spotty Brights Affirmation Station
1. Create Classroom Rules Together
At the start of the school year, your kids are coming back down to earth after weeks of trampolining, playing in the pool, sleepovers with friends, endless icy-poles and no super strict daily routine. So, you can forgive them for taking a little while to adjust to a structured day at school! (Their parents have probably been counting down the days until they can hand their kids back to you, ha!)
You’ll probably spend the whole year *reminding* your kids about the class rules, but creating them together will help to get them on board!
While trying to get a class full of energetic kids to cooperate can sometimes feel like banging your head against the wall, I’ve found that classroom management is so much easier off the bat when there are set behaviour management expectations in place.
However, that’s not my secret here (I promise I have better tips than ‘have a behaviour management policy’)! The trick is to make this a shared responsibility with your students.
You can use my editable posters to create your own rule display that matches the rest of your classroom decor! IG - @the.sunshine.teacher featuring my Spotty Brights posters
Spend an afternoon (or even a week, depending on your class!) talking about the different rules you might have in your classroom, and get your students to suggest new ones along with explaining why they think they’re important. Focus on how unwanted behaviour impacts each other and how you can all work together to make your classroom a happy place for everyone.
Jampacked with resources, activities and icebreakers for your first week back at school, my Back to School Activities Pack includes everything you need to create your class rules together with your students.
My Back to School Activities Pack includes workbooks for your students along with a set of posters for you to display your classroom rules for everyone to see. You could also use one of my Editable Poster bundles to coordinate with the rest of your decor if you’re using one of my decor packs this year!
2. Establish Positive Relationships with Parents and Carers
Oh BFFs, I know some of you have just seen the word ‘parents’ and your heart rate just jumped by 20 beats per minute. But I promise, having parents on your side from the get-go will take so much off your plate and put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing these relationships throughout the rest of the year!
If you haven’t already, send an email out to all the grown-ups of your students to introduce yourself and let them know how excited you are to be teaching their little learners! You could attach my Meet the Teacher template to make this a little more personalised and help parents to connect with you. Not only is this one of the easiest tips for a new school year to implement, but it’s also kind of fun!
You could also print out this template and hand it out to parents as you meet them during your first few weeks, or send home in your students’ backpacks.
Also be sure to let parents and carers know how they can contact you throughout the year. I am a big fan of an open door policy - not only does this help to keep the lines of communication open (there’s nothing worse than having a parent unload a term’s worth of concerns on you at a parent-teacher interview!) but it also can help you to forge more positive relationships with your parent community.
Having an open door policy helps to build positive relationships with the parents in your class! Don’t forget to lean on other teachers for support when you need it, too.
And while in a perfect world, your students’ parents would realise the incredible above-and-beyond job you’re doing teaching their little learners, sometimes there might be more challenging conversations you need to have. If that’s the case, BFF? While everything inside might be screaming at you to avoid, avoid, avoid, you need to ‘eat the frog’ here and have those chats as soon as possible; preferably in person.
It might be uncomfortable at the time, but resolving things nice and early and staying on the same page with parents will be *so* much better for you in the long run.
3. Create a Substitute/CRT Folder
As much as we like to think we’re superhuman, there will come a day (especially in the current climate) where you’ll feel a little under the weather. I know teachers have a tendency to try to push through and show up for their little learners - and a lot of this usually comes down to the fact that it’s a lot easier to just work through being sick than it is to prepare for a substitute teacher!
Once you put the work into creating your sub folder, you just need to give it a quick update once a term - and you’re all set! IG - @misszandthefirsties
Having a folder ready-to-go with everything a substitute teacher would need to walk in and teach your class will be an absolute lifesaver, and it’s well worth the upfront time investment to create. It’s a first year teacher organisation must-have!
I have a ton of gorgeous folder resources available on my website to help get you started!
I’ve got a whole blog about what to include in your substitute folder - all you need is a ring binder and some of my editable Binder Covers to create an easily identifiable folder that houses everything from student information to lesson plans and worksheets.
Create a dedicated drawer in your teacher trolley where your substitute binder can live, so it’s easy to find! I created this set up using my teacher trolley labels in Spotty Boho.
With this in place, you’ll be able to relax knowing that you can really step away for a day without worrying about your students (okay, if you’re wired like me you’ll still think about them all day!).
4. Create a Routine
Especially if you’re teaching early years students, you have your work cut out for you when it comes to getting them used to the shock of long days and changing activities in the classroom!
Having a routine and helping your students to know what they should be doing throughout the day will help them to stay on task, and minimise disruptions throughout your day.
This routine should go beyond just what activity you’ll be doing when, but cover off things like what kids should do if they need to go to the bathroom, if they need extra help, where they should keep their workbooks and accessories, how they line up - nothing should be left to the unknown!
Displaying your plans for the day in an accessible place doesn’t just help to keep your kids in the know, but can be a really valuable tool for neurodiverse students or those who prefer to learn visually. A visual timetable is a great resource for this!
Display your visual timetable in an easily accessible spot, like the whiteboard or next to other frequently used displays. IG - @misszandthefirsties featuring my Boho Rainbow visual timetable
My designs include 120 various daily classroom activities and subjects, and the files are of course editable (handy if you’re teaching in a bilingual classroom). And when it comes to first year teacher organisation, a timetable is almost as useful for you as it is for your students.
More on visual timetables in my blog post here!
5. Start Preparing for Reports (Yes, Really!)
Before you scroll down to the comments section of this blog to call me crazy for including ‘start report prep’ in my tips for a NEW school year - let me explain!
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey, but in it he outlines 7 productive habits that can have a hugely positive impact on your everyday life. The habit I really want to focus on here though is the second one he mentions - ‘Begin with the end in mind.’
Taking notes throughout all the different topics and assessments you cover during the term will make reporting so easy, BFF!
If you wait until reporting season rolls around to start thinking about what to write about your students? I guarantee you’ll be sitting at your desk for hours on end, surrounded by coffee cups and cans of energy drink, and shaking your fist at past you for not doing anything to make future you’s life easier!
This is *exactly* why I created my Acing Assessment Bundle - the scenario above may or may not be a description of past Chantelle, before I realised the importance of beginning with the end in mind.
I popped everything you need for a stress-free reporting season into this one bundle! The version of you ten or so weeks from now will be *so* grateful.
This bundle includes five key resources to use throughout the school year to keep you on track, organised and informed when it comes to assessing your students and writing their reports. Including assessment forms for reading and maths, along with a wealth of other handy tools, you can say goodbye to that end of term stress and say hello to the easiest assessment and report writing term you’ve ever known!
That’s it BFF - my tried and tested tricks to not only survive, but to thrive throughout the school year! Investing some time now into establishing routines, organisation systems and reporting resources will pay off in spades down the track, especially for anyone looking to nail their first year teacher organisation. This means you can spend less time stressing and more time doing what you love - teaching your little learners!
Would you add anything to this list? I’d love to know - let me know in the comments below, or join my Facebook group where we share lots of tips, advice and experiences with teachers from all over the world!