As another vacation slips away from us, it is hard to realize that we are already at the point to welcome to back to school all our students for another year of learning and fun. I hope all of you had a good, safe summer with plenty of time to relax, enjoy friends and loved ones and read some great books.
The start of a new school year always feels fresh, yet frantic. Even though a teacher may be working on the same grade level and subject areas, there seems to be so much more to do than ever before. There are new students with their special learning needs and personalities to get to know – I mean really get to know. And it takes time for students who were absent all summer or those who have not been in your classroom for a while to re-adapt and become part of the class team again.
Although your classroom may look similar to how you left it at the end of last school year, most likely there are some new “toys” as well. Such is life in education today – we must always be prepared with new and updated materials to help us improve on what we did last year and keep our students competitive with the rest of the world. Even though we may not welcome these changes at first, ultimately our eagerness to improve ourselves will kick in and we begin to see how exciting it is for us as teachers to be on this never-ending journey of discovery.
On top of all these new changes affecting teachers, there is also the matter of keeping everyone on our class team motivated and committed to continuing their high level of achievement. With a new school year comes a fresh start for students as well as us educators. With this in mind, I wish you all a wonderful first day back with lots of smiles and encouragement for your students.
It’s also important to remember yourself this school year. My motto is always “work smarter, not harder”. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and there are so many tools out there that can make our lives easier as teachers: use them!
The less stress that you can have in your life, the more that will trickle down to a positive experience for your students. However, everything starts with that first day of school and creating those meaningful relationships with your students. This needs to be the priority above all else.
Welcome to Back to School: Tips to Get Started
However, as some “welcome to back to school” ideas for this school year, here are some top teaching tips that I have found that helped me improve my teaching over time:
1. Set up your room quickly and efficiently – Every minute you spend at the end of summer preparing for a new school year is precious time not spent with your family, your hobbies, or yourself. Most teachers will find themselves working late into the night trying to prepare their rooms for the new term, so why not get it done sooner rather than later? I have found that if you set up the classroom without first cleaning it, your room will likely be a mess by the time you finish. This is how we all end up leaving our homes at the last minute and worrying about how things look.
2. Make sure every one of your students has a chance to succeed – We all would love for each of our students to succeed above and beyond whatever we may have expected. But as we welcome to back to school our students who may not have done a lick of anything educational since we saw them last, this rarely happens (unless you are lucky enough to teach the “A” student that will never require as much support as other students in your class).
For every one of these special students, there is likely an equal number of special needs students whose best intentions have not helped them keep up with the rest of their classmates. As one of the most important welcome to back to school ideas, we must help our struggling students find that spark that will make them feel successful and welcome at last in a place where they can do what everyone else is able to do – learn!
3. Make sure you welcome to back to school the parents and guardians of your students – So many times we as teachers are busy keeping up with everything in our classroom that we forget about who plays a very important part in our success as educators – the parents and guardians of our students. At welcome to back to school time, it is easy for us to quickly hand out welcome letters and welcome packages and then get back to what we were doing. How will our students see us welcome them into our classrooms if their parents are not welcome?
As a solid welcome to back to school idea, reach out to your student’s parents with a “new” welcome letter, videos of your class, welcome packages filled with information, and maybe even door hangers or stickers to welcome them right into your class.
4. Take care of yourself – As welcome to back to school ideas go, this seems like one of the most obvious ones but it is one that may be the most overlooked by many teachers. Make sure you eat properly, catch up on sleep, and exercise so that you have the energy to welcome to back to school your students. Also, make sure you take care of your own well-being as a teacher by having all the proper equipment in order for an acceptable welcome to back to school.
5. Try welcome to back to school activities – Because welcome to back to school ideas come in many different forms, there is no better way than welcome to back to school activities for teachers to get started off right with their new classes. There are dozens of activity options that would excite any grade level (just make sure what you are choosing is age-appropriate…there’s no quicker way to lose your students than to choose an activity that isn’t right for their age). While welcome to back to school ideas are welcome at any time, a specific activity can be the catalyst for a new year of learning.
The Key: Building Relationships
The key to the beginning of any school year is to make sure that you have consistent ideas for building relationships with each and every one of your students. When used wisely and appropriately, deligated welcome to back to school activities can provide you with the opportunity to welcome your students in a way that makes them want to be part of your classroom family.
Consider these guidelines as you plan your welcome back to school activities:
1. Set realistic goals for your classroom and students. Activities that are too long or not age-appropriate will exhaust the students and send the wrong message to parents. A great way to gauge appropriate time is by using an egg timer during any activity, when it goes off, you’re done.
2. Stay in the moment. It is easy to get overexcited about beginning a new school year and getting caught up in your lesson plans for the day or the coming week. Don’t forget why you put on an activity—to create an environment of trust, respect, and communication with your students and their families.
3. Come up with some activities that will give you opportunities to assess your students’ interests, strengths, and needs in a way that’s nonthreatening and informal. These little snapshots can help start the year on the right foot. Have your students draw a picture of what they want to get out of this school year or draw you a picture of themselves. Make a list and post some of these on the classroom bulletin board throughout the year and as a record for future years.
4. Open opportunities to talk about your class rules, expectations, and procedures in a fun way that shows you have an interest in helping them get off to a great start at their new school. If possible, come up with some activities that have the students work together as a team. This will help establish teamwork, leadership skills, and responsibility in your classroom.
5. Create opportunities to welcome each one of your students’ family members respectively by giving them an opportunity to get their names on the first day of school roster along with you. If you are using a welcome back to school form for your students, be sure to include it on the first day of school roster and have each family member sign it. Have them write down one thing they are grateful for in regards to their student.
If you missed it, we just finished our “Student Engagement Formula Challenge” which helped teachers to create a rockstar lesson plan for the first day of school. This engaging lesson plan is the perfect welcome to back to school message for students of all grade levels (as each teacher was able to customize to their age group).
Everyone had a great time and is super excited about starting the new school year.
However, to add an extra element to this, I also put together the “Creating Meaningful Relationships in the Classroom” program; a quick, 9 module series that gives you something to watch, something to read, and at least one template per module to get you set right away to begin forming relationships with your students that will carry through the entire school year. The sooner you can engage your students and “hook” them, the better the school year will go.
If you’re interested in checking out Creating Meaningful Relationships in the Classroom, click the photo below for more information: