8 Back-to-School Hacks Every First-Year Teacher Should Know

The following back-to-school teacher hacks will ease a few of the challenges that await you as a new hire. The key is to work smarter, not harder.

By implementing these tips, you’ll set a solid foundation for the school year.

Back-to-School Hacks for Teachers

1.  Simplify Your Bulletin Boards.

When it comes to class décor, Keep It Super Simple.

Place butcher paper on your bulletin boards, and then add a simple border. Even better, wait until students arrive and have them help.

Here’s how…

Take 3” x 5” index cards, distribute a couple to each child, and have each draw or write something related to the theme of the bulletin board.

Now use those index cards to create a border. The board won’t look perfect, but it’ll be decent.

Throughout the year, post students’ work on the bulletin boards.

Doing so saves so much time and mental energy because you won’t have to regularly plan detailed bulletin board ideas.

2.  Teach Rules But Do Start Teaching.

A big piece of advice that you’ve probably heard from experienced educators is to teach rules and procedures repeatedly during the first week of school.

This is great advice.

But it is OK to actually begin teaching the first week, too.

Yes, you want to stress rules and procedures plus review them constantly. But that doesn’t mean you have to do so all day, everyday during the first few weeks of school.

Take 30 minutes to an hour each day during the first week of school to focus on procedures and rules.

Or sprinkle classroom management mini-lessons throughout the day over a period of several days.

However you manage it, do gradually begin teaching.  

It’s also important to authentically mix teaching and classroom management procedures as much as possible.

For example…

  • Practice lining up on the way to and from Specials’/electives classes. 
  • Review expectations for an assembly right before one.
  • Model appropriate lunch behavior during that time period.
  • Rehearse a variety of attention getters while transitioning from one activity to the next.
  • Etc.

There are no hard and fast rules about how many days you should focus on explicitly introducing and/or reinforcing classroom rules with your students.

Use as much time as you need unless your school states otherwise.

Of all the back-to-school teacher hacks, this one can’t be stressed enough.

3.  Prepare Low-Maintenance, First-Day-of-School Morning Work.

Make a simple, grade-appropriate back-to-school morning work packet. Before they arrive on the first day, place it (along with a pencil) on the children’s desks.

Make the morning packet easy enough so that learners can work independently with minimal teacher assistance.

This allows you time to freely greet arriving new students and parents without too many distractions.

Another advantage is that the kids don’t waste time digging into their backpacks searching for paper and a pencil. You’ve provided them with everything they need for that first day.

Write a simple message on the board instructing them to put their backpacks away and begin working on the packet.

4.  Schedule the Organization of School Supplies.

Schedule the collection and organization of school supplies as a whole class activity for the first day of school.

Create a checklist to keep track of who brought what, in addition to which items each child still needs to bring. Ask the kids to label items with their names if not already done.

If you have a significant number of students who didn’t bring in materials, brainstorm solutions for using school supplies as community property.

5.  Write Emergency Lesson Plans.

It’s inevitable. At some point, you’ll experience an emergency that takes you away from the classroom for a day or longer. 

So prepare for that time now.

Preferably by the end of the first week of back-to-school time, write two to a week’s worth of emergency lesson plans…the more the better.

Consider keeping emergency sub plans even if your school doesn’t require them. The payoff is well worth it.

6.  Record School Events in Your School Planner for the Entire Year.

This back-to-school teacher hack makes long-term planning efficient.

First, go online to find your school’s current calendar of events for the entire school year. Then take your plan book, and pencil in every significant school event for the year.

Now, each week as you fill in your lesson plan, you’ll be able to ensure that your classroom activities don’t conflict with school-wide or district-wide events.

7.  Maintain a Professional Development Record Sheet.

If your school requires a certain number of professional development (PD) hours within a defined period of time, record those hours as you acquire them.

Prevent scrambling at the last minute, trying to remember every PD session you attended.

Right after attending a professional development workshop, record the name of the workshop and the number of hours granted.

8.  Carry a Small Bottle of Poo~Pourri.

We saved the best back-to-school teacher hack for last.

To minimize lingering staff bathroom odors, carry a small bottle of Poo~Pourri. This freshening spray keeps the restroom a pleasant place for all.

You’re Now Armed With a Few Good Teacher Hacks

As a first-year teacher, you’ve got a million things on the brain.

So implement these teacher hacks at the start of the school year. They’ll make your teaching life a bit more pleasant.