Whether it’s your first or fortieth year teaching, the back-to-school season always brings about feelings of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness. You might find your mind racing with all kinds of questions about the new school year. What will your students be like? Did you check everything off your back-to-school checklist? Which desk arrangement should you choose?
As a teacher, preparing for back to school can quickly become overwhelming. To help you prioritize what’s important and make the most out of the start of the school year, we asked educators in the TPT community for their best back-to-school advice for teachers.
Back-to-school advice for teachers, from teachers
From ideas for fostering a positive classroom environment to thoughts on planning ahead, these insightful tips can help you start the school year on the right foot.
1. Get ahead in manageable ways
A common tip we heard from teachers for back to school is to try to get ahead in small, meaningful ways. While you should absolutely enjoy the last moments of your summer vacation, taking a little bit of time to get organized will be well worth it for a smoother, easier first week of school.
- “Take one hour to plan out the first two weeks of the school year. Think about what supplies you may need to order ahead of time and what the first day will look like. That will open up those precious minutes during pre-planning to focus on getting your room organized, handouts printed, copied, and similar.” — Whitney from Look Between the Lines
- “Set yourself up for success by creating a meal plan, prepping meals ahead of time, hiring a cleaner for the first month of school, or simply communicating to your family that you will need some extra help during those first weeks. We cannot do it all, and we certainly cannot do it all alone.” — Molly from The Sassy Apple
- “Pre-planning is filled with meeting after meeting and training after training. Make sure your classroom is almost set up before pre-planning starts. Then, you’re sure to have time to get everything ready for your students when they walk in your classroom on the first day of school.” — Heather from Science from the South
2. Don’t worry about planning everything
As much as getting ahead can be helpful, teachers also repeatedly shared that you don’t have to have it all figured out on day one or week one. You might not get to everything on your back-to-school to-do lists, and that’s totally okay. Focus on the must-haves for those first few days, and the rest will come.
- “You don’t need to have every single detail figured out by day one of school. You’ll be ready even if there are no bulletin boards in the room. Prepare what you can and trust that things will fall into place as the first weeks go by.” – Lucy from For French Immersion
- “Plan your first week and don’t worry about much more. Get in there and meet your students before doing your long-term planning. Then, you can plan your long-term content around their needs.” — Samantha in Secondary
- “While the first weeks of school help set the tone for the school year, don’t forget that it is never too late to make a change. The best teachers make changes as needed, and their students will adapt and benefit from their reflection.” — Paige from Everything for English Language Learners
3. Take your time creating effective classroom routines
A piece of back-to-school advice many teachers shared is to create strong classroom routines before getting into academics. Taking your time with routines at the start of the school year will allow your classroom to run more effectively, and more learning will happen in the long run.
- “When it comes to routines, take your time and practice daily. I always think of the saying, ‘You have to go slow to go fast.’ If you want your classroom to run smoothly in the middle and end of the year, focus on practicing routines. You’ve got this!” – Anna from Mrs K’s Klubhouse
- “Take it slow! It always feels like we need to rush through rules and routines in order to get to the curriculum, but I always suggest taking it slow with your students.” – Lisa from Play All Day
- “Co-create routines and focus on community and relationships instead of curriculum. Learning will come once students feel they have a safe space and feel a sense of belonging. Really focus on being consistent with routines and expectations and lay the foundation for the rest of the year.” — Jayme from PrimaryJuniorPassions
4. Build strong relationships with students
In order to foster a sense of community, trust, and belonging in your classroom, building strong relationships with students is a must. A top tip from teachers for back to school is to focus on strengthening those relationships from day one. Plus, getting to know your students is one of the best parts of teaching!
- “Get to know your students really well in the beginning. This allows you to see what motivates them and how you can use that in the classroom.” — Jocelyn from Mrs T’s Math Recipes
- “Use those first few weeks of school to form meaningful connections with your students that will help strengthen your relationships as the school year continues. What are their likes? Dislikes? Interests?” — Brittany from Success in Special Ed
- “Take a moment to connect with each of your students individually. Use a class list to keep track, and make sure you have a conversation with each of them personally in that first week.” — Loren from Blue Sky Designs by Mrs T
5. Connect with families and caregivers
Students aren’t the only ones you need to build relationships with — parents and caregivers are just as important. By creating a partnership with students’ families and caregivers, you’ll be able to work together to support each student’s unique needs, strengths, and challenges. What happens at school is reinforced at home and vice versa, leading to better outcomes for everyone.
- “I encourage all educators to think about how we can create bonds of friendship and collaboration with families to multiply our teaching effectiveness. This is how we make a lasting contribution in our school and community. Consider how you can give families actionable resources so they can support their students’ school success.” — Nellie Edge Kindergarten
- “Establish a good relationship with parents before there is a problem. Don’t wait until you have a problem with a student. Catch every student doing something good. If you do this first, parents will be more willing to listen when there is a problem.” — Ivy from Ivybee Speech
7. Prioritize your self-care
As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. That’s why self-care and setting boundaries are so important for teachers. During the back-to-school season, while there are endless things you could be doing to prepare, that doesn’t mean you should be doing it all. As these next teachers share, make sure you give yourself the space to unwind and refresh, too.
- “One piece of advice is to continue to implement your own self-care. Students depend on you for services, but you need to also depend on yourself.” — Olivia from Behavioral Concepts Store
- “Try to keep your home life separate from your work life by leaving work at school and protecting your time at home with family. If you stay at school too late, you’ll realize it’s a never-ending list of to-do’s that can always wait until tomorrow.” — Nancy from Tricks and Treats for Teaching
- “Prioritize rest! A well-rested teacher will be able to handle challenges more effectively and can help create a more supportive environment for students.” — Kadeen Teachers
8. Be open to learning and trying new things
Last but not least, as you enter the new school year, keep your mind open to new ideas and strategies. Experienced teachers shared again and again that every year is different, and keeping an open mind to new techniques can unlock new possibilities for the unique set of students in your class this year.
- “My advice to teachers would be to experiment with different instructional strategies, incorporate a variety of classroom management tools, stay informed about new educational research, and get to know your students for who they are as humans. I think the key to being a great educator is to reflect — period to period, day to day, year to year, there is always time to reflect and develop different aspects of the teaching craft.” — Jillian from Wondering with Mrs Watto
- “One thing I learned over the years is that each class is different and they all have different needs. What worked last year might not work this year! It’s important to keep up with educational strategies, classroom management techniques, and trends in education.” — Melicety
Whether you’re excited, apprehensive, or somewhere in between, we know you’ll make this an amazing year for your students — especially with these back-to-school tips in hand. Whether you follow every piece of educator advice or just a few nuggets of wisdom, you and your students are sure to thrive this school year. And don’t forget — whatever support you may need along the way, the TPT teacher community will always have your back!