Thursday, August 23, 2018

10 Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School


Image result for back to school stock photo

Back to School.

That heading either makes you cringe or excites you. I always get super excited about back to school but I also feel a little stressed or anxious about it too. I liken a teacher's summer to one big long Friday night. You feel like you have the whole weekend ahead of you, have huge plans to relax, have fun, and get *&#! done! There is a sense of relief that the week is over and you feel like the weekend will last forever. But the end of August (in my school board we go back the day after the September long weekend) feels like a Sunday afternoon. Summer isn't over but back to school is looming over our heads and the loooong weekend we were enjoying is basically over. I feel a sense of accomplishment looking back at what I've done over the summer but I almost always also feel like there are about a thousand things left on my to do list that I thought I would tackle and never did.

So to help ease your teacher anxiety a bit, and to help you remember all of the things that you need to do before school starts up again. Check out these 10 tips for a smooth transition back to school!

1. Make a master to do list. 

Separate your list into categories and add items to each category. Then, each day, create a daily to do list and tackle the items on that list. I always add something fun at the end that acts as my reward. Here's a link to a FREEBIE in my TPT store. This is how I organize my B2S to do list.

2. Make up a parent package. 

In this package, include everything you will need to send home to parents during the first days of school. Every school is different and there may be school board provided tech and media permission forms or you may want to make these up yourself. Include a sheet with info about you and sheets about communication, dress code, dismissal information, classroom birthdays, homework program, etc. You can also check out this resource in my shop if you're looking for a ready-made PARENT PACKAGE.

3. Make up a few extra Start-Up Packages for late-arrivals.

Students may join your class later in the year, so it is always a good idea to make up extra parent-packages, student labels, book boxes, and everything you prepare for the rest of your students in September. That way, when a new student joins your class, you will have a quick grab folder with everything they need to feel comfortable and a part of the classroom community. I bundled several resources that are found in my store to create a one-stop shop for everything you need to start back up. You can find it here:  Start-Up Package

4. Check in with your teaching team. 

A quick email, note or even a small gift for your teaching partners goes a long way to creating a strong working team. Make sure to check in about how they are feeling about the return to school and see if there is anything you can do to help them. Also, see if there are ways to share the workload of all the back to school tasks. Maybe one of you could work on making up a parent package for the teaching team and another person could make up classroom labels. 

5. Give your 'Third Teacher' some love.

Whether you are a first year teacher setting up a room for the first time, a returning teacher who is moving classrooms, or a teacher staying in the same room, be sure to take some time to create a learning space (often referred to as the 'Third Teacher' because of the important role it plays in your students' learning. If you want to learn more about the Third Teacher, you can read about it HERE). Creating a space that is warm, welcoming, calming and beautiful greatly impacts the way you and your students will feel in the room and therefore, how you will learn. I often draw plans of my classroom and make lists of what I have or can find or make that will add to my classroom's décor and functionality.

6. Send a LETTER to your future students.

This one is a bit trickier and your school policy might not allow it, but if you are able to, sending an actual letter (email is good too, but often goes to the child's parent and not directly to them) to your students the week before school starts is a great way to start the year off right. I have done this every year of my teaching career and always receive amazing parent feedback about this practice. I introduce myself and my teaching partners, tell them what our room number is and often tell them to look out for our class mascot on the first day of school and to give him a hug if they are feeling nervous.

7. Consider implementing a mindfulness practice in your classroom.

            Image result for kid doing yoga stock photo
This will benefit everybody! It's a stressful and often highly emotional time. Penciling time into my daily schedule to do yoga, meditation and mindfulness practice helps me feel more calm, focused and ready to teach and it has the same effect on my students. Teaching and fostering mindfulness and being aware of ones emotions is imperative in developing self-regulation. I have also created a calm-down corner with resources for teaching about recognizing emotions, strategies for returning to calm and identifying what 'zone' you are in that is based on the ZONES OF REGULATION. You can find that resource in my store HERE.


8. Keep the first days simple.

I always want to jump in and start doing fun and engaging things right from the first day but I always forget how important it is to keep it simple and take things slow for the first weeks of school. Focus on making the kids feel comfortable, introduce rules and routines (discuss the rules as a class and come up with a list together to give them ownership and accountability), tour the school and find out where the closest washrooms are, build classroom community and keep things fun. 

9. Learn about your students.

I always like to focus on getting to know my students in the first weeks of school. It shows them that I care and it helps me to engage them if I know what their interests are. I also try to get to know them as a learner by observing and assessing where they are at, what type of learner they are, etc. For my kindergarten students I assess letter recognition, phonics, number recognition, rote counting, fine and gross motor skills, whether they are left or right handed, if they are able to do up buttons and zippers, etc. If you are a kindergarten or preschool teacher,  you might find this DIAGNOSTIC ASSESSMENT resource helpful.

10. Be yourself and have fun.

All too often I forget this one and try to be like my colleagues or like other teachers I see on social media. It's important to be true to you and to your teaching style. Have fun with the first days and be a caring and welcoming presence for your new students. No matter what you teaching style or teacher personality, your students will love you if you are genuinely yourself!

Hope these tips were helpful! Happy Back to School!