The beginning of the new school year can be an exciting and stressful time for teachers and students alike. From arranging classroom furniture to consolidating reading lists, there is plenty to be getting on with after the summer break is over.
Indeed, with so much to think about, it can be easy for teachers to forget to complete essential tasks, regardless of how much experience they have.
So, what is the back-to-school checklist for teachers?
To ensure that both you and your pupils start the year on the right foot, we’ve put together a helpful checklist of tasks for teachers. Remember, however, that this list is not comprehensive. Some of the tasks may not seem particularly relevant to your situation and you may think of certain tasks that we have missed out. In this way, it is a good idea to draw up your own checklist using these notes as a guideline, ticking them off as you go along:
1. Is the classroom ready for learning?
A thoughtfully arranged classroom will facilitate learning and encourage students to get involved with fruitful discussions with their classmates. To foster this kind of environment, you need to consider how the desks will be arranged, where you will display work by students, where to display books, and where to place important announcements.
If you’re interested in sparking group discussions, for example, you should consider arranging desks into clusters. This will encourage productive conversations and help students bond. At the same time, you need to take into account whether students will be able to see announcements or whiteboard notes from where they are sitting. Try to make sure that these notes are placed somewhere that is visible from most areas of the classroom. Finally, displaying books and examples of student work is a great way to foster a desire to learn and flourish in the classroom. Try to spread them across the walls of the room.
2. Get to know any new technologies you may be required to use
If your school has implemented new kinds of education technology (sometimes known as EdTech) over the summer holidays, it is important that you get to grips with them as soon as possible. This could include interactive teaching software or equipment for pupils with special needs. If you need any help, don’t be afraid to ask a colleague with the relevant know-how to offer guidance.
To find out more about the ways in which technology is transforming the lives of teachers, check out this fascinating article.
3. Come up with some original ice-breaker activities
If you are starting the year with a bunch of fresh faces in the classroom, you will need to come up with a few ice-breaker activities. Rather than simply asking them questions such as what their favorite color is or what they got up to over the summer break, try organizing a few collaborative games to encourage team-building. If you need a little inspiration, this helpful list is a great place to start.
4. Create name tags for pupils
Learning your students names early on is vital if you want to maintain authority and build a solid rapport with them. Buying in a few name tags will help you to do this in no time.
5. Set out the rules
Defining classroom rules early on is absolutely essential if you want to foster a calm and orderly environment. To make sure students are well aware of the rules and the consequences of breaking them, spend around 10 minutes during the first lesson explaining how you expect pupils to behave. It may also be useful to define your rules on a poster that can stay in the classroom all year round.
Of course, your rules should be appropriate for the age group you are teaching. Reading out a list of kindergarten rules to teenagers will make your students feel patronized or even disrespected. If you’re unsure of the kinds of rules you should be spelling out, this resource may prove useful.
6. Purchase a lesson planner and any other necessary stationery
If you’re a fan of stationery (who isn’t?), then the beginning of the academic year is a great time to stock up. A crisp new lesson planner will help you to feel ready to take on your new classes. A few new pens or pencils will not go amiss either!
7. Make sure school supplies are well-organized
Every classroom needs an array of workbooks, pens, textbooks and learning equipment. As any teacher knows, however, it can be difficult to keep these items neatly stored. To ensure that the classroom stays neat and tidy all year round, take a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book. This means ridding the room of any supplies that are past their best and storing remaining items in neatly labeled drawers and boxes. It may take a few hours, but you will thank yourself later in the year.
8. Dig out old resources that may be useful
If the new year’s syllabus is similar to those of any previous years, make sure that you find any old lessons plans or worksheets early on. This will save time in the long run and lower your stress levels.
9. Provide students with a general overview of the year
Your pupils will be eager to know what they will be learning over the year, so it is a good idea to provide them with a handout detailing the topics they will cover and the kind of learning outcomes you expect.