5 Back-to-School Teacher Tips for a Brilliant Year

By Angel Rutledge
CMO and COO of SignUpGenius

With young minds to inspire and lessons to plan, every moment in your day is valuable. As you prepare to welcome your new students, plan ahead for the year. By tackling organization before classes begin, you’ll ace the back-to-school transition and be ready for what’s next. Check out these tips to save time and stave off stress, and you’ll get the year off to a genius start.

1. Think Beyond Back-to-School

Sounds simple enough, but planning ahead can help you focus on the things that matter most throughout the year. Create a back-to-school checklist for the first month of school and a master calendar with holidays, vacations and important dates such as parent-teacher conferences, field trips, teacher training and early release days. Plan your curriculum around the calendar, and jot down ideas for classroom décor, bulletin boards, and fun activities.

Don’t wait until the sniffles strike to prepare for a substitute. Get a general plan together so things will run smoothly if you’re out sick. Include a few ideas for icebreakers, books for story time, and some games to review previous lessons.

2. Start Out with Strong Parent-Teacher Communication

Building trust with your parents is key to a successful year. Reach out to parents the first week of school to encourage questions and share your preferred method of communication. Invite your room parent for coffee, discuss a plan to accomplish your goals and ideas for the year, and communicate needs such as classroom volunteers.

When creating a wish list of classroom essentials or scheduling parent teacher conferences, forget the chain of reply-all emails. Instead, use an online sign-up service. That way you won’t have to worry about whether parents saw an email and the sign-up can be updated in real time as time slots are taken and lists are filled. 

3. Create Organization Hacks

Teachers want to work smarter, not harder, so get your classroom ready with a few simple tips and tricks. Use washi tape on your whiteboard to designate areas for homework information, upcoming events, and project details. Write each student’s name on a craft stick and place them in a jar for an easy way to create groups and select student helpers.

Set alarms on your phone to remind you of specials, recess, and lunch during the first few weeks of school. Teachers are full of creative ideas, so start a social media group to exchange your favorite tips and tricks.

4. Curb Your Own Homework

A successful plan includes scheduled downtime to help you start each day rested and refreshed. You may need to bring home a stack of papers to grade, but set a time to put away the work and watch a favorite show or read a book just for fun.

If you need to tackle some work after school, try to fit in a workout or walk your dog first to reset your mind. If you’ve had a challenging day, reaching out to a fellow teacher or friend can help ease your worries and help create a plan to address the issue.

5. Break the Ice

To help students learn classmates’ names and ease back-to-school jitters, plan an icebreaker activity once or twice a week during the first month of school. For example, younger kids can share a favorite experience from summer vacation, and older students can try to stump one another with a summer version of “Two Truths and a Lie.”

This fun activity can help start conversations between classmates and get the day started before diving into school work. Chances are many students don’t know each other yet so it is a good way for everyone to meet — and for you to learn everyone’s name.

In conclusion, teachers are heroes to kids and their parents. Set your classroom strategy early to give yourself more time to savor the milestones your students will celebrate this year. You’ll thank yourself once the year is in full swing.

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Angel Rutledge is a former middle school English teacher and the mom of four teenagers. She is currently the COO and CMO of SignUpGenius, which helps millions of people each month manage volunteers and organize responsibilities and events such as class parties, sports team snack schedules, group fundraisers, and business events.

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