Sanity Savers for the First Week of School

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Welcome to the Best Back To School Tips Blog Hop and Giveaway! And a BIG welcome to everyone who is popping in from my friend's blog at Two Boys and a Dad Productions!

By visiting each of our 6 blogs, you will have the opportunity to enter 6 giveaways! Each blog will be giving away a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card!

Remember - typically, Teachers Pay Teachers holds a Back to School Sale, so the timing is PERFECT! Woo Hoo - I'm so excited!!

Starting a school year on the right foot is tremendously important - but I know that you know that already! :)  It promotes a calm, positive atmosphere for students and teachers.

Every year I have a few moments of panic as I feel my To-Do List spiraling out of control – the first week is sheer survival mode! But the more prepared you are, the less you will worry and sweat the small stuff!

Repeat to yourself: “I am flexible, don’t sweat the small stuff, and I can do this!” Because you CAN do this! 

Seriously – deep breaths and positive mantras are necessary! And remember to laugh! Keep it in perspective - this is truly not Life and Death!

Here are my Sanity Savers for Teachers at Back to School Time!

1. Learn students’ names – Read over your student list and practice saying difficult names prior to meeting your students. If possible, check with last year’s teacher about any names that could be mispronounced. I had a student years ago that I simply could not remember the pronunciation of her name for the first few days. It embarrassed her and I felt terrible each time I stumbled over it.  Luckily, she was very gracious, but I felt like it reflected poorly on me – and it did.

I also take the time to label student desks with first and last names as a cheat for myself. Usually I am able to remember students’ names based on where they sit in the room long before I can remember all of their names as they are moving around the room. My school allows us to attach name plates on the desks, which helps both students and teachers.

And while you are labeling, name tags can be attached to lockers, coat hooks, and often teachers provide name tags for students to wear, either self-sticking, or on strings to be worn around their necks. Specials teachers, like phys. ed., art, music, etc., appreciate the name tags on students. There are many name tags available on Teachers Pay Teachers – many very cute options! I usually attach desk plates to the desks with clear packaging tape. Yes, you will have to instruct the students not to pick at the tape!
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At this point, I assign a student number – typically the numbers are assigned alphabetically. I know it’s risky – there are bound to be students who don’t show up, and new students who are assigned to you at the last minute. Some teachers don’t assign numbers until the second day – it’s up to you. There are pros and cons for each method. But once a number is assigned, don’t change it! That leads to confusion.

Students then use the numbers when they write their names on their papers (such as John Adams #1, Sue Bennett #2, etc.), which really helps when putting grades in the computer or grade book!

1½. Carefully Read Your Students' IEPs!
Sorry about the 1 1/2, but this was too important to leave out! :)
While we're on the subject of students, I need to mention here that you really do need to read over the IEPs of students who are in your classroom. I always read through IEPs (and 504s) with highlighters. I make notes on the IEP cover, and I cover it with sticky notes. My IEPs are in a special binder that I keep handy by my desk. I also list students and their accommodations and modifications on a separate sheet that goes directly in my lesson plan book and grade book.

2. Teach Daily Routines and Procedures This is truly a sanity saver!

By explicitly teaching and modeling expected behaviors over the first few days and weeks of school, you ensuring a safe classroom community which provides you with more time to teach, decreased discipline problems, and improved learning and productivity. The structure is appreciated by teachers and students - especially at-risk students.

In my classroom, we model the correct procedure, then a student models the procedure incorrectly, then after a short discussion, the same student models the correct routine. By modeling correct, incorrect, then correct again, students have the opportunity to approve the positive behavior. 

Hint: Select a student who may struggle to perform that procedure correctly, incorrectly, then correctly again. He received instant feedback, gets the negative behavior out of his system right from the start, and receives positive behavior approval, which is very valuable to attention-seeking students.

Some procedures to consider practicing include lunch count, pencil sharpening, lining up, hallway behavior, proper manners, hanging up coats, getting drinks – and so on! Write out a list of your expectations and be sure to discuss them and model them during the first several days.

Hint: You don’t need to recreate the wheel here – for a couple of bucks, you can purchase tried-and-true procedures products on Teachers Pay Teachers. Many are editable so that you can personalize them for your class and needs. Worth their weight in gold!

3. Make Lesson Plans -  My first few days of lessons and lists never fit nicely in the little squares on a lesson plan book. Instead, I type them out on a full sheet of paper - in list form - leaving lots of room to pencil in additional stuff that pops up. These papers are kept from year to year as valuable references. Plans typically change - I mean, ALWAYS change - but remember your mantra - "I am flexible, don't sweat the small stuff, and I can do this!"

A rough outline of where I am headed for at least the first couple of weeks is a MUST for me. I write out (in very general terms) plans for the first couple of weeks because it makes me feel calm and knowing where I'm headed relieves a lot of my stress.

I still write my actual lesson plans by hand (on my computer template) even though I end up drawing arrows, scratching out, and revising. Confession - at least by hand I have a reason to buy those pretty colored markers to make my scribbles and scratches cool looking!

Hint: Have you seen the incredible Teacher Planner options on Teachers Pay Teachers? I'm looking over the choices myself because I'm finally going to buy myself a super organized Teacher Planner from a fellow teacher who's been there, done that!

4. Hang a list of your students outside the classroom door. Students and parents will appreciate knowing for sure if they are or are not supposed to be in that room. Some students get really nervous about walking into the wrong room. 

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Personally, I like to decorate my classroom door with students’ names for a bright, cheerful, and warm welcome! You know Pinterest can help you find just the right door décor!

5. Organize your teacher desk! Being unable to find what I’m looking for drives me CRAZY! I figure that having an organized desk is completely in my control. I can’t control many things that happen in the first couple of days, but I can control the chaos on and in my desk. Get it put together and move on! I’ve seen some teacher desks that have so many papers shoved in them that the teacher can’t really even use the desk.

When I have piles of papers, I try to be honest with myself – will I really use that worksheet? My old boss once taught me to touch each paper only once – “Put it away or throw it away, right away!” If it’s super cute, but just not right for your class, either throw it away or pass it on to someone who can use it – DO NOT CLUTTER YOUR DESK WITH IT! Truly, there have been times when I’ve sat down to work, and had to move to my small group table because there’s no work space on my desk – NOT GOOD!

6. Sticky notes are your friends! 
Stock up on them for the beginning of the school year. Take them to every meeting that you attend and make a list of things you must do. Also, write down the names of the new people in your building so that you don’t have to ask (Yep, I’m bad with names, so I learned this trick fast!)

I have them sticking to my computer, my purse, and the wall beside my desk. If you have Windows on your computer, you can right click on the desktop and get a sticky note right there on your computer!

7. Prepare a Sub Tub Sooner Rather than Later! 

You won't regret it! I've written a longer post about an easy way to keep a Sub Tub filled HERE. You think you won't get sick, and often you are able to suffer through it, but occasionally we get so sick that we are simply UNABLE to make it to school.
I've learned (through experience) that basic sub plans (Emergency plans) are so, so incredibly important. I personally don't have any sub plans for sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, but I have purchased some from other teachers and they are truly Lifesavers! Invest (yes - it's truly an investment!!) in a quality set that suits your grade and subject. You won't be sorry, you will be relieved!

LOL - no, this is not me! She's just a nice model!
Well - those are my top jobs for preparing myself and my classroom for the first day! If time allows, continue working on the classroom, library, and working on making your classroom as efficient as possible. Keep high traffic areas clear, keep work spaces tidy and uncluttered, and above all - KEEP SMILING!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway Want more chances to win a Teachers Pay Teachers $25 gift card? Continue this blog hop by hopping over to Jewel's School Gems by Jewel Pastor by clicking on the link or her logo.

Good luck in the giveaways and on your first day back at school!


  1. Thanks for taking part in the blog hop & giveaway!

  2. #2, #3, and #4 are SOOOO Important! Have a great year!

  3. All very important but #1 & #1 1/2 & #2 are, to me, the most important. Thank you.

  4. These are all great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  5. A lot of great ideas!!! Thanks for sharing!


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