Tomorrow marks the start-up of the 2013-2014 year for us! I’ve spent the entire last week preparing, so I feel oddly calm. (I’m sure I’ll feel less calm around midnight tonight, as I stare at the ceiling and pray for sleep.)
So as I embark on my third full year of teaching, I thought I would share some of the ways I keep myself and organized and sane as possible as a new school year begins.
1. Start planning to plan over the summer. Everyone knows summers for teachers are hardly a relaxing few months, so take advantage of your antsy-ness. Make lists of new things you’d like to try, draw out plans for how you will organize your room, where each type of bulletin board setup will go, and what materials you need for each. Look on Pintrest and teaching blogs for decorating ideas while you have the time to consider and reconsider. Then get the supplies you need while you still have time to change your mind! (Why? Because I’ve done this and I’m glad I had the time to go nuts!)
2. During preplanning week, keep a notebook on you. Make lists of the things you still have to do, so you can cross them off as you go and feel super duper accomplished!
3. The weekend before school starts, whip up some easy lunches for the entire week. Now, I do this EVERY weekend throughout the year. I refuse to buy school lunch (ew, no thanks) so I’m left with preparing lunches each week. You know, ones that can be scarfed down in 10 minutes, so you still have time to run around and go potty. Easy lunches for me almost always consist of pasta dishes. I love pasta salad, because it’s easy to make and play around with, and doesn’t need to be heat up. I also like making mac-and-cheese (Annie’s is great, organic, and doesn’t have icky artificial dyes…sorry, personal rant) with peas, because it’s super quick to heat up. I always make sure I have things that are easy to bag up ahead of time too, like grapes or strawberries. I separate portions into snack bags on Sunday. It makes it easy to throw everything into my lunch bag each night. Moral of the story: prepared lunches are ONE less thing you have to worry about each night.
4. Set out your clothes the night before! Nothing is more stressful than trying to put an outfit together at 6am, in the dark, and realizing you hate how you look in those pants now. And then you have to find a shirt that matches other pants and before you know it, you want to pick up the phone and cry to your mom. Save your sanity. Pick out an outfit in the night before, and try it on if you aren’t sure you still love yourself in it anymore. If your hair cooperates, also do that the night before. I have the luck of being able to shower the night before and sleep on hair and wake up with it looking even better in the morning. If that works for you, DO IT. If not, sorry for unintentionally bragging.
5. Get to school early. You know you will be waking up every few hours anyway. So just get up early, get that coffee going, and get to school. That way you have plenty of time to rearrange, rearrange, and rearrange some more when you walk in. You’ll feel a lot more calm when the bell rings that morning!
6. Greet the students with a warm smile, a “hug or high five”, and have something prepared for them to do when they walk in. I got this fantastic play-dough idea from clutterfreeclassroom.com, and will be utilizing it this year. I just made two batches of play-dough, and placed them in baggies. It will give the kids something to do with their hands and all those jitters as I get them organized in the morning. And yes, even 5th graders LOVE play dough.
7. Keep yourself over-planned for the week. Make sure you have more activities than you could ever get through in any given day, and have them prepared to get to (if they are worksheets, surveys, art projects, etc.) or prepared to discuss and deliver. Prioritize them as “must-do” and “may-do” on a list or in folders, labeled by the day. Then go through them accordingly! Any extra activities can be delivered as needed.
8. Be prepared for everything to take for.freakin.ever. If you need to be at specials at noon, get the kids ready at 11:45. You will want to go through all of the procedures for walking in line every.single.day for at least the first week. This takes time, but it is well worth the investment.
9. Have a way to deliver expectations and procedures prepared and outlined. Know exactly WHAT procedures you are going to need to teach ASAP (walking in line, eating in the cafeteria) and what can wait a little (how to hand in homework). Be sure to have a schedule of when you will be teaching each procedure or expectation, and a way to communicate it. This year, I’m going the PPT route. Of course, I don’t need to list everything out for them. I will discuss the overall expectation shown on each slide with them in detail, but this helps me stay on track. And monsters are cute!
(The last one is how I plan to introduce the concept of “integrity”…one word my kids almost always learn right away.)
10. Breathe! It will all be okay. Remind yourself that while you are sure to forget something that you planned to do, it will be just fine. The kids won’t even notice as long as you smile and nod and look like you know what you’re doing. Be friendly but firm, and know that this week is all about setting those expectations, getting to know your kids, and helping them get to know you. Be flexible. Accept that nothing ever goes exactly as planned! But most importantly, enjoy how amazingly quiet those children are on the first day. It will never happen again.
Good luck to all my teacher friends starting this week! Here’s to an organized and sane year for all! Cheers!