This post shares 8 back-to-school teacher hacks that I’ve learned along my teaching journey.
As a new teacher, the learning curve is real, and on top of that, the beginning of the school year brings unique challenges.
These teacher hacks will help you set the tone for the rest of the school year.
Good Teacher Hacks
1. Simplify Your Bulletin Boards.
Are you feeling a bit of anxiety because of all those Pinterest-ready classrooms posted all over social media?
My motto: KISS. Keep It Super Simple!
Put butcher paper on your bulletin boards, add some border, and call it a day.
And you don’t even have to add border just yet. Wait and let your students do the work!
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!
No, it won’t look perfect. But it will definitely be “kiddie” looking, and I’m sure students will enjoy helping out.
Throughout the year, post your students’ work on the bulletin boards.
Doing so saves so much time and mental energy because you don’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 those classroom management mini-lessons throughout the school day over a period of several days.
However you manage it, do gradually begin teaching.
It’s also important to integrate as much as possible.
For example, on the way to and from Specials’ classes, practice lining up. Review expectations for an assembly right before one. Model appropriate lunch behavior during that time period.
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, I can’t stress this one enough.
3. Prepare Low-Maintenance, First-Day-of-School Morning Work.
Make a simple, grade-appropriate back-to-school morning work packet for students, and place it (along with a pencil) on students’ desks before their arrival on the first day.
You want the morning packet to be easy enough where students can work independently with minimal teacher assistance.
This allows you time to freely greet arriving new students and parents without too many distractions from students.
Another advantage is that students 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.
All of those new school supplies on the first day of school becomes overwhelming to organize.
Schedule the collection and organization of school supplies as an activity during the first day of school, preferably the 2nd or 3rd block of the day.
Create a system for who brought what in addition to which items still need purchasing.
As you collect and organize supplies with students, have them label items with their name if not already done.
Have a significant number of students who didn’t bring school supplies?
5. Write Emergency Lesson Plans.
At some point in time, many of us will experience an emergency that takes us away from the classroom for a day or longer. So it’s best to be prepared.
Preferably by the end of the first week, write two days to a week’s worth of emergency lesson plans…the more the better.
I highly recommend you write emergency plans even if your school doesn’t require them.
You’ll thank yourself for having decent emergency plans in the event something does occur.
You’ll be able to step away and take care of your emergency without worrying about what your students are learning.
6. Record School Events in Your School Planner for the Entire Year.
This back-to-school teacher hack makes long-term planning so efficient.
If you’re fortunate enough to work in a well-organized school or district, hopefully your principal or the powers-that-be have published an accurate and up-to-date calendar of events for the entire school year.
In your planning calendar, pencil in every significant school event for the whole school year. This includes standardized testing and report card distribution dates.
When you’re planning your classroom events and activities (e.g. portfolio presentations, living museums, poetry slams, writing celebration parties, etc.), you can be sure that your unique class events don’t conflict with school-wide or district-wide events.
You’ll also be able easily figure out the best dates and times for administering classroom exams and quizzes.
7. Maintain a Professional Development Record Sheet.
Does your school require a certain number of professional development (PD) hours within a defined period of time?
In the state of Texas, public school teachers must acquire 150 hours of PD hours every five years.
Five years seems like plenty of time to complete 150 hours, but as we all know, time flies and deadlines sneak upon us quickly.
Before you know it, the five-year mark is approaching, and you’re scrambling to remember every PD session you attended.
Here’s a simple solution…
Record those PD hours as they come.
Right after attending a professional development workshop, record the name of the workshop and the number of hours granted.
Keep this record sheet handy.
Check to see if your state has a ready-make template for download.
8. Carry a Small Bottle of Poo~Pourri.
I saved the best back-to-school teacher hack for last (shamelessly).
This hack is not directly connected with teaching, but I hope you’ll understand the intent behind it.
To minimize lingering bathroom odors, carry a small bottle of Poo~Pourri.
This product keeps the bathroom a pleasant place.
As a first-year teacher, you’ve got a million things to think about.
These back-to-school teacher hacks will help you start the year off right by making your teaching life a bit more pleasant.
All the best