First-Day Jitters for New and Veteran Teachers

New-Teacher Strategies for the Start of School

Classroom
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New teachers typically anticipate the first day of school with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. They may have gained experience teaching in a controlled environment under the tutelage of a supervising teacher in a student teaching position. The responsibility of a classroom teacher is different.  Check off these 10 pre-flight strategies—whether you're a rookie or a veteran teacher—to set yourself up for classroom success from day one.

01
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Familiarize Yourself With the School

Learn the layout of the school. Be aware of entrances and exits. 

Look for the student restroom closest to your classroom. Locate the media center and the student cafeteria. Knowing these locations means you can help if new students have questions for you.

Look for the faculty restroom closest to your classroom. Locate the teacher work room so that you can make copies, prepare materials, etc.

02
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Know the School Policies for Teachers

Individual schools and school districts have policies and procedures for teachers that you need to learn. Read through official handbooks, paying close attention to things such as attendance policies and discipline plans.

Make sure you know how to request a day off in case of illness. You should be prepared to get sick a lot during your first year; most new teachers are also new to all the germs and use up their sick days. Ask your coworkers and assigned mentor to clarify any unclear procedures. For example, it's important to know how the administration expects you to handle disruptive students.

03
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Know the School Policies for Students

All schools have policies and procedures for students that you need to learn. Read through the student handbooks, paying close attention to what students are told about discipline, dress code, attendance, grades, etc.

04
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Meet Your Coworkers

Meet and begin to make friends with your coworkers, especially those who teach in the classrooms around yours. You will turn to them first with questions and concerns. It is also important that you meet and begin to build relationships with key people around the school such as the school secretary, the library media specialist, the janitorial staff and the individual in charge of teacher absences.

05
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Organize Your Classroom

You usually get a week or less before the first day of school to set up your classroom. Make sure to arrange classroom desks the way you want them for the school year. Take some time to add decorations to bulletin boards or hang posters about topics you will be covering during the year.

06
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Prepare Materials for the First Day

One of the first things you should learn is the procedure for making photocopies. Some schools require you to turn in requests in advance so the office staff can make the copies for you. Other schools allow you to make them yourself. In either case, you need to plan ahead to prepare copies for the first day. Do not put this off until the last minute because you run the risk of running out of time.

Know where supplies are kept. If there is a book room, be sure to check out the materials you will need in advance. 

07
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Arrive Early

Arrive at school early on the first day in order to get settled in your classroom. Make sure you have your materials organized and ready to go so you do not have to hunt for anything after the bell rings.

08
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Greet Each Student and Begin to Learn Their Names

Stand at the door, smile, and warmly greet students as they enter your classroom for the first time. Try to memorize the names of a few students. Have student create name tags for desks. When you begin teaching, use the names you learned to call on a few students. 

Remember, you are setting the tone for the year. Smiling does not mean that you are a weak teacher, but that you are pleased to meet them.

09
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Go Over Rules and Procedures With Your Students

Make sure you have posted the classroom rules according to the student handbook and the school's discipline plan for all students to see. Go over each rule and the steps you will take if these rules are broken. Do not assume that students will read these on their own. Continually reinforce the rules from day one as part of effective classroom management.

Some teachers ask students to contribute to the creation of classroom rules. These must complement, not replace, the rules already established by the school. Having students add rules gives students an opportunity to offer more buy-in in the operation of the class.

10
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Create Detailed Lesson Plans for the First Week

Make detailed lesson plans including directions for yourself on what to do throughout each class period. Read them and know them. Do not try to "wing it" that first week. 

Have a backup plan in the event materials are not available. Have a backup plan in the event technology fails. Have a backup plan in the event extra students show up in the classroom.

11
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Start Teaching on the First Day

Make sure you teach something on that first day of school. Do not spend the entire period on housekeeping tasks. After you take attendance and go through the classroom syllabus and rules, jump right in. Let your students know that your classroom is going to be a place of learning from day one.

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Practice Technology

Be sure to practice with the technology before the start of school.  Check log-in and passwords for communication software such as e-mail. Know what platforms your school uses daily, such as the grading platform Powerschool. 

Find out which software licenses are available to you (Turnitin.com, Newsela.com, Vocabulary.com, Edmodo, Google Ed Suite, etc) so that you can begin to set up your digital use on these programs.