The first day of school my first year in the classroom I distinctly remember walking around the room, looking at my sweet students’ faces, and thinking, “Wow, there should really be an adult in here with all these kids.”
Cue the realization, that at a mere, baby-faced twenty-two years old, I was that adult.
Every year after that, the first day of school remained the scariest of the year, closely followed by field trip days. While it didn’t become less scary, I did become more prepared.
Here are some important things to remember for the first day of school.
1. Time Will Fly on the First Day of School
You would think that a minute is a minute, but no. A first day of school minute is like a nano-second every other day. I don’t know how it works, but the time will fly by like no other.
Make yourself a ranked list of must dos, should dos, and can dos. Then complete them in that order. You don’t have to get through everything on that first day, but some things must be done.
Alternatively, time may stand still for you. Make sure you have enough materials prepared to cover a whole week, because you just might make your way through them at lightning speed.
2. Relationships Come First
Yes, we are at school for academics, but relationships come first. As is famously said, “You can’t do the Bloom’s stuff until you do the Maslow’s stuff.” Every person in the classroom needs to feel welcomed, included, and valued before you can begin with academics or procedures.
Keep this in mind when planning your schedule.
This means including class and team builders along with opportunities for you to get to know your students and their needs.
For more on building relationships, especially with tough students, check out this post.
3. Practice and Then Practice Again
So much of the first day of school is procedures. It would be wonderful if we could explain a procedure once and then move on, but that isn’t what happens in the real world.
As Monica from Cheer says, “We practice until we get it right, and then we practice until we can’t get it wrong.”
This doesn’t mean drilling procedures into students’ heads, but practicing in fun ways like role playing, using cooperative learning strategies, and having students create illustrations or instructions for each procedure.
4. Remember It’s a Brand New Year
Everything from previous school years needs to be left at the door of the building on the first day of school.
Don’t bother with students’ previous behavior. Forget about your class from last year and how chatty they were. Leave it all at the door.
Each year offers a new opportunity to rewrite the story and our students deserve the chance to make the year what they want it to be.
5. Arrive Early and Greet Your Students
Listen, I am NOT a morning person. While I spent most of the school year rolling into the classroom exactly when I needed to and not a second before, that is not the way to do it on the first day of school.
For this one day I would arrive early, eat a generous breakfast alone in my room, brush my teeth at the classroom sink, and then stand ready to meet students at the door and greet them, hopefully by name as they entered.
I truly believe this set the tone for the whole school year.
6. Over Prepare
As I mentioned in #1 above, you may run through all of your plans. You may not. Please, I am begging you, over prepare. You won’t regret it.
The bonus to being over prepared is if you don’t use something on the first day of school you have 180+ more days to use it!
7. Start the First Day of School Off Right Away
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen teachers make is to not have something for students to do when they enter the room on the first day of school.
This is huge! I am not saying to have students start annotating and analyzing text from the minute they walk in the door, but they need something to do.
I would recommend something with a low barrier to entry that all students can participate in and enjoy. Bonus points if table teams are able to work on it together.
Ideas include using building materials, Play-Doh, word searches, or age-appropriate coloring pages. I also always make sure to have a healthy stack of book on each table for students to peruse.
First Day of School Tools
Throughout the back to school season, you want to make sure students are engaged and actively building relationships with their peers and their teachers all while setting the tone for the year!
A great way to achieve this is through these back to school activities that incorporate cooperative learning strategies to build relationships and allow students to get to know one another!