Back To School Tips For New Teachers

Congratulations!  You graduated, You passed your tests, you got your license, you aced the interview and you are looking at your very first classroom!  Or maybe you are an experienced teacher who is getting ready to start a new years.

Let me start by saying this.  YOU are amazing.  You showed your professors, your state, and your new principal you knew your stuff with nothing but ambition and a drive for success.  And guess what? You will be just as successful with your new class with those same things.

But wait!  Maybe you are thinking:

Nope.  That is not what makes a successful year.  Things like organization, management, and keeping YOUR own life are things that will make you successful.

Keep in mind, most of the classrooms you see on Pinterest and Instagram are from VETERAN teachers not new.

My first classroom (I looked, I do not have any photos…sad) was so bare and so naked it was almost painful.  I also started though on October 10th, 6 weeks into school.  I had no time to plan or make things. I started out with a hand drawn poster with our “class rules” that we all signed.  I had a student make some graffiti letters that said something about great work, we slapped that up and students were allowed to pin up work they were proud of.   We hung up Anchor charts around the room.  That was all I did for “DECOR” and you know what?  My students did great, we had 15% increase in state test scores, they are all happy, and successful in high-school now.

That summer I reflected.  I thought about what would make my classroom better.  I felt my behavior management was decent and I needed to focus on transition times. I added table numbers, and made each table a color.  I bought matching table caddies for each table color.  I made a number-line and was really excited to put it up.  That was it.  My 1st full year of teaching, second year teaching was also successful.

That summer I reflected again.  This next year I wanted to organize my classroom more, so students knew where everything was and felt comfortable getting the resource on their own time. Also going into my third year I was a little more financially stable.  I bought a rolling cart, containers for stations, spent a little more on borders and “decor”  I still just went with a color theme of the things I had already accumulated.

MY point is here, I’d like to say I am better than a good teacher.   Yes I have my bad days.  Yes I feel like a failure sometimes, and yes I certainly have room to grow still, but I am successful at my job, my students are happy, and successful and I do not have a “pinterest worthy” classroom. Let’s be real.  I would rather spend my money on vacations and clothes than bean bags and baskets.  In the end when you are getting reviewed for your performance, your classroom decor has little or nothing to do with how “successful” you are as a teacher.

So here it comes.  TIPS for how to get ready for your first BTS!  I am going to organize it by topic so to speak!  I enlisted in some of my blogger and insta friends too!  Check out their links!

Meet The Teacher Night

  • Nowhere does it say you have to provide a “GIFT” to students OR their parents. ESPECIALLY if you are departmentalized and have more than 15 students in your class. Parents just want to know how to get a hold of you and your homework policy. And really all students care about is:
    • Where am I going to sit?
    • Do I have any friends in my class?
    • What does this new teacher look like?
  • Nowhere does it say your room has to be completely set up if Meet the teacher night is BEFORE school starts like ours is.  Again, all parents care about is how to get a hold of you and what your homework policy is.
  • If you really feel you HAVE to give a gift think small.  I gave out a glow stick (you can get 10 for a 1$ at Dollar Tree) with a bookmark I made that said “Let’s have a BRIGHT year”  Here is the bookmark for FREE!  In my picture I had to use a pencil rather than a glow stick as I did not have any sitting around.  Just download and print.  You can make a class of 30 for 8 sheets of cardstock and 3$ worth of glow sticks!  For parents? Think about getting a few bags of peppermints and pouring them into a bowl with a sign that says “Parents and teachers are MINT to work together!”  Again a few bags at the $1 store should not run you too much in debt. I also have a coffee maker in my classroom (Duh, Lessons WITH COFFEE.) I offer small cups of coffee to parents. (I THINK it makes the classroom smell nice too. 🙂
  • Check out your local thrift stores for “Teacher Outfits”  I score nearly new Gap, Banana Republic, Free People, Calvin Klein, Loft, Jcrew stuff ALL THE TIME for pennies on the dime.  You can bring $40 to a thrift store and get a WEEKS worth of outfits for the same price as ONE skirt in the shops.  However if PreLoved is not your thing, make sure you check out J-Crew, Loft, Madewell, NewYork and Co.  They offer a teacher discount all year round.  Old Navy, Anthropology and other stores offer a discount at certain times of the year.
  • Victoria From Chalk Full of Inspiration had this to say: I’m about to start my fourth year, so here are 4 tips. 1. Before school starts, clean and organize your entire room. Make sure you know where everything is: I saved a note on my iPad with a list of what was in each cabinet. 2. Don’t worry about your room being super decorated… don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money. I did my whole room from tpt using mostly freebies! 3. Don’t compare yourself to other teachers. It’s good to have a few goals, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you have too many. 4. Don’t stay in your room all the time! You may want to because your to do list will seem never ending, but don’t be afraid to pop in another teacher’s room to chat or ask for advice!
  • The Sassy Sub had this to say: Don’t feel like you need your room to be ‘done’ by the first day. Make sure you are ready for the students but remember you can add and change things as you go!

How To Set Your Classroom Up

  • Like I said above…there is no rule that says you have to have a perfectly decorated “BUSY BEE” classroom from day one. However, I understand the URGE to start out with something.  I HIGHLY suggest picking a primary color scheme (because these colors are the easiest to find supplies in on Amazon, Lake Shore Learning, and Classroom Supply stores.), rather than a “theme.”  The colors help with organizing too.
  •  Pick ONE area of your classroom you would like to have really sharp looking.  Maybe it is your desk (heck you will spend time there), or your small group table, or your library, or your homework station.  Spend the money there and only there, and when you are spending…PLEASE LOOK AT THRIFT STORES and CRAIGSLIST FIRST! you never know what you are going to find, and you never know what you are going to save over buying full price at retail stores.  Listen, I love me a good Target run, I live in Minnesota, the birth place of Target, it is Mecca to me, But there is no reason to spend $120 on a rug when folks are selling them at garage sales right now for $15.
  • Flexible seating is awesome.  I mean awesome.  But remember the premise behind flexible seating.  OFFERING students a choice of where to sit and how to work.  This does not mean you need to spend $700 on bean bags, and spinning stools. My first year I offered clip boards.  That was it.  Students could sit on the floor and work, under their desk, or in the hall. My next summer I added three circular bathmats that kids FOUGHT over.  We spend enough of our own money on glue sticks.  Don’t spend your first pay check (or worse use a credit card) on scoop chairs and trampoline seats.  If you happen to see one for DIRT CHEAP (I am talking like $1-$5) sure take them…But never pay full price. Kids are much more resilient than we are, they will sit where ever. I am telling you just offer them spots on the floor, and watch the smiles!
  • Teaching With Ninjanuity had this to say: Make extra back to school packets and have supplies ready to go for new students that might come during the year. Any important information you pass out during the year, add to these packets. They save time when a new student comes and it serves as a guide to help you the following year get everything ready for that group of students!

How To Manage Paperwork

 

  • Pick a day for grading (I like Thursdays… I do not work in my room on Fridays), OR Grade as you go (I try to do this as much as I can.  When I taught middle school I had 187 students…grading was always an issue). Also have students grade as much as you can!
  • Choose a system, either drawers or folders, binders or files.  I personally use folders by subject/class for grading and binders for other things.
  • Kjo0812 had this to say: Try to grade the papers from that day before you leave and at least write them down. I got into this habit my second year and it makes life so much easier. I don’t always accomplish this but i always avoid a huge stack to grade this way. Then I pop my grades into my digital grade book on Friday during my plan time
  • Sweet Tooth Teaching had this to say: Assign student numbers! I have students switch their tests and we debrief assessments as a whole. Students are able to get instant feedback and it avoids taking any work home! (Only works for easy to grade tests) Once they’ve been graded, I call students up in number order, collect their papers, and automatically input their grades in the grade book. It saves me soooo much time and the students love getting feedback right away! 🙂
  • I love Sweet Tooth Teaching’s idea, I use numbers with my Show What You Know boards, check out systems, and other things but never thought to use it for grading!  Perfect!

Managing Student Behaviors

  • My biggest tip here is to really make sure students know what is expected of them and know what to expect if they are not complying.  Be stern with your rules (not mean) but if you have a “NO talking while I am talking rule” you best stick to it.  Students will figure out fast that you are easy to bend rules for.
  • Msmaihuynh had this to say: Don’t rush into starting your curriculum in any subject. Take the time to establish routines, teach centers, materials management, etc. it will save you so much time in the long run. I don’t start any of my curriculum until the 3rd or 4th week of school, depending on the subject.
  • Rsneed23 had this to say: Stay in touch with parents. They love to hear from you. I used Remind101 this year. I have still been receiving texts from parents this summer sending me pictures of their children enjoying the summer. They felt comfortable with the app since it is similar to a text. I did tell them that any texts after 7:00 pm would be answered the following morning, but they were extremely respectful of my personal time
  • Claudia’s Classroom had this to say: CLASS DOJO has been a lifesaver for me in terms of classroom management. It eliminates the behavior clipchart which not only takes up valuable wall space but also lots of time! They have so many amazing features and are always adding more! They make parent communication easy bc they email a weekly status report to the parents to let them know how their child did that week. I don’t have to do anything except assign points for good behavior! It is amazing and it’s free! It’s a teacher’s best friend! Seriously, I can’t talk it up enough. Definitely look in to it.

Managing Your Personal Life As A Teacher

  • The best tip I ever got was to use earbuds on my prep and when I am working in my classroom.  When I would listen to music on my computer or over the speakers on my projector the sound would emanate through the room and so would my thoughts and attention span.  When I use earbuds (I actually use wireless headphones, my classroom is small enough that I can walk from one end to the other with my phone in the middle and still pick up the bluetooth) the sound is just in my head and so is my thoughts and attention span.  This was one of the biggest components to me getting S%^T done!
  • Pick a time to leave by every day and stick to it.  I am actually better at working in the morning (less people there to bug me too), but I made it a rule I could not stay more than an hour after the bell rang every day.  I set an alarm and I left. I picked up where I was the next day.  FIRST LESSON OF BEING A TEACHER, your to-do list is never done. NEVER. own it.
  • Spend that money you saved on not decorating the crap out of your classroom on a massage or manicure!
  • The 4th Grade Fix had this to say: I picked two days a week to stay late and catch up on everything…then I had a life on weekends. My dad was a principal forever and I remember him telling me that things start to slow down right before Thanksgiving, and I remember that being so true my first few years of craziness!
  • Iteach6th had this to say: One piece of advice that I wish I knew is that you will feel like you will never get through your entire checklist. Prioritize your list and put the rest off for later! Don’t be afraid to stop and take time for you!
  • 412teachershaveclass had this to say: Don’t spend time on things after school that students can help you with! I wasted a lot of time on tasks such as checking homework assignments, cutting lamination, and changing bulletin boards until I realized my students could do this so much faster and LOVED to help. During 15 minute bus dismissal students would change the lunch choices, homework board, date, remove projects from bulletin boards, take tape off of projects, and so much more. My room would be all ready for the next day by the time the last bus left!

There was a ton of other really great information given to me that I could sift through.  I want to make sure these teachers get credit too.  I posted a request for tips on Instagram and got an OVERWHELMING amount of New Teacher Support.

Otherwise know that there are veteran teachers out there to help you!  I am one of them.  IF you ever need anything do not feel ashamed to ask.  

Cheers to a great FIRST back to school!

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