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July 14, 2016

A Timeline for Getting the School Year Off to a Great Start


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Getting ready for a new school year involves so many different responsibilities that it is difficult to know how to begin what seems to be a crushing undertaking. Like all tasks, however, breaking down the various components into easy-to-manage bits not only will make the workload more manageable, but also will allow to you have fun as you get ready to meet your new students.

One efficient way to approach this task is to frontload as much as possible so that you will be prepared to teach from the first day of school on. If you are fortunate enough to have a teaching contract a month before the school year begins, following the timeline of essential responsibilities below will make it easier to create a great new school year. If you are hired nearer to the first day of school, the actual dateline may not be possible, but the order of priorities still can serve as a guide to help you and your students have a terrific first day.

About a month before the term begins, you need to take three important actions to make your school year easier: Think about how you will arrange your classroom, begin to make yourself familiar with course content, and get organized by creating your professional binder.

Arranging Your Class:

  • Thanks to all of the generous teachers who share their great ideas, you can search Pinterest or Google Images for ideas to decorate your classroom space inexpensively.
  • Order any supplies your district allows. If you are unsure of what you will need, stick to the basics: blue or black pens, colored pens for grading, a hole punch, several three-ring binders, a stapler, file folders, crayons or markers, tape, a flash drive, paper clips, rubber bands, construction paper and stackable trays.
  • Hit the back-to-school sales for supplies you will need that are not provided by your school district. Now is the time to find basic items such as extra glue sticks, scissors, pencils, binders, and rulers while they are plentiful and on sale.

Become Familiar with Course Content:

  • Obtain a copy of your district’s school calendar. Be sure to keep a copy handy so you can plan out the instruction for the year.
  • Search online for information about the subjects you will teach. Create electronic folders for bookmarked ideas and useful sites for each unit of study you will cover during the term.
  • Search your district’s website for your curriculum guides. Your state’s department of education also will have curriculum guides available.
  • Pick up teachers’ editions and supplementary materials if hard copies are available; if there are electronic versions, find out how to access them.

Create Your Professional Binder:

Many teachers use a professional binder to store documents and information they use daily. You will need a large three-ring binder for this purpose. Here are some items you can keep in your professional binder:

  • Your professional goals
  • To-do lists
  • Copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • List of Gardner’s multiple intelligences
  • Grading reminders such as due dates or grading scales
  • A school year calendar
  • An outline of the instructional plan for the year, semester or grading period
  • Seating charts
  • List of classroom chores for students to manage
  • Ideas for integrating technology
  • Class rosters
  • Contact documentation records and other forms related to classroom management

Two weeks before the term begins, there are many different ways to make the start of school more successful. Doing as much as you can now will make it much easier; the hectic daily pace of school will soon be here.

  • Now is a perfect time to meet informally with colleagues to create a course overview, semester plans and unit plans.
  • Create a syllabus for your students so they know what they will be studying throughout the year generally and in the first two or three weeks specifically.
  • Make sure the equipment in your room works and is safely installed; request repairs if necessary.
  • Create your class rules and procedures.
  • Establish a routine for taking attendance, collecting money and managing other classroom tasks efficiently.
  • Write a letter to parents or guardians introducing yourself. If you can find time to make a phone call to each student’s family, you will reap the benefits all year.

The last week before the term begins tends to be an exhausting time for classroom teachers because we have to manage the responsibilities of arranging a productive and positive classroom space, attend many district- and school-level meetings, and take care of countless chores. Here is a quick list of some of the basic responsibilities you should try to take care of during the week before school begins:

  • Obtain the school forms you will need.
  • Work with a mentor or colleagues to answer procedural questions or to iron out last-minute details.
  • Master the material in your faculty manual. Be sure you are familiar with school procedures and policies.
  • Prepare for emergency drills. Know when they are scheduled and know what to do.
  • Write out your plans for the first day, the first few weeks of school.
  • Study your class rosters so you can be familiar with students’ names.
  • Make sure you are aware of the special needs of students with IEPs and 504 plans.
  • Create a seating chart.
  • Put your classroom in order.
  • Set up your paper and electronic files.
  • Make plans for how to manage your stress at the start of the term and throughout the school year.
Julia Thompson

Julia G. Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She has been a teacher in the public schools of Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina for more than thirty-five years.

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