Plan Ahead for the Best School Year Yet

For the last sixteen years I've been a teacher, (and, likely, my seventeen years as a student before that), I have had a love-hate relationship with August.  I love the carefree nature of summer break. I hate that I will actually have to know what day of the week it is...and, gasp, the date, too.  I love the sunshine and the opportunity to travel with my family.  I hate that once school and fall sports start, we are locked down at home until my boys' football and soccer seasons are over.   I love seeing school supplies make their way to Target, and choosing fun new items to use in my classroom. I hate the idea of spending so much of my money on said items.

Love it or hate it, August comes every year.  For some of you (like me) school has already started, and for others, it's coming up quick.  So, again, using my many years of experience as a teacher, here is my best tip for starting the year off right...


Back to school time is busy for everyone, especially teachers.  Not only are we dealing with all the new students and trying to learn their names and faces ASAP, we have mounds of back to school paper work to fill out, assessments to give, supplies to organize, procedures to teach, and lessons to start.  And that's just at school.  Add in your own kids going back to school, and general family life, and this season is nuts!

So the best thing to do is plan ahead.  I teach English to freshman and juniors.  I had my first month calendars planned in July.  I have my units sketched out for the remainder of the year.  Before school had even started, I had made all the copies I would need in the first month, too.  I know that scheduling changes happen, and I may end up with a few extra copies, but having what I need without the stress of having to wait in copy room lines is worth it.

Another requirement many teachers have is to write content and language objectives. These got popular after I had been teaching for nine or ten years, and I have to admit, writing my objectives this way still does not come naturally to me.  So what do I do? Write them up ahead of time?  I make up a page or two of objectives that I know I will be using, and then I just plug them in as necessary.  No on the spot pressure for writing objectives before class starts.

Also,if you're not already back in school, set up your classroom early.  Make it as user-friendly as possible, and make sure that everything has a place.  Teach your students where each zone is and stick to it.  Buy necessities like hand sanitizer, tissue, and extra pencils and paper in bulk and keep them in your classroom, so that when these items start running low, you don't have to make a mad dash to the store to replace them.   Read on to see how I do this and for a peek at my own room.

At home, plan ahead, too.  Plan your outfits for the week.  Then, plan your kids' outfits for the week (let them do it, but give it the once over).  I use sweater racks like this one in my closets, labeling them by day of the week.  For my boys, I put everything they'll wear that day, including essentials like underwear and socks.  For me, since I usually keep my outfits hanging, I'll add accessories, proper undergarments, and shoes.  It is so nice to get up and know what I'm going to wear and to have everything ready for me.

On that note, make lunches in advance, too.  Mornings are too busy to add lunch-making to the mix.  Make sandwiches (or whatever) the night before, and have your kids grab all the extras, like drinks and snacks, and load their lunchboxes.  

Finally, this last one is a tip I am still working on, but I'm including it here because it's important and I'm hoping that my continued efforts will help it to stick in my mind.  Get gas in your car before the light comes on!  I know this is a no-brainer for many, but it's my downfall.  I put if off, then discover, usually on days that I'm in a rush, that I need to get gas to even make it to work.  I drive a Suburban--filling up takes a while, and it's so much less stressful to do it when I'm not in a hurry.  Hopefully, you already have this one down.

Now, as promised, I'm including some photos of my own classroom and how I planned ahead for back to school.  Enjoy, and have a great year!

My favorite spot in my new room--my library!  I moved into a former band room and it has an office.  I made it into a library and reading room and I LOVE it!

I got the idea for this cute direction sign from The Daring English Teacher.  Can you guess figure out which books we'll be reading this year?

Literary Elements posters from Stacey Lloyd.
My spot for storing my extra supplies, including toilet paper, which is cheaper and easier to buy in bulk than Kleenex.
My desk and personal computer station.

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