Top 10 in Veteran Teacher's Back to School List

Back-to-School Wisdom Gained from Years of Experience

The veteran teacher's back-to-school wisdom worth sharing. OJO Images/Getty Images

Back-to-school can be an intimidating experience for everyone: students, support staff, administration, and teachers. The familiarity with the routine of back-to-school for the veteran teachers, however, can make their return to classroom a little less challenging. 

Here's the wisdom gained from years of experience in a veteran teacher's Top 10 Things for the First Week of School 


1. Will not flinch at the word "change":

The veteran teacher knows change and has learned how to adapt to each wave of educational improvement. Decades of educational reform and practices have seasoned the veteran teacher. From open classrooms, to No Child Left Behind; from digital classrooms, to the Common Core State Standards; the veteran teacher is a member of the staff who knows that change is a constant factor in education. The veteran teacher has no visible reaction to the word "change" during that welcome back speech during  the first full faculty meeting; this latest change will be improved by another.

2. Commits to Learning Students' Names on Day One:

The veteran teacher knows the power of a student's name. Perhaps the veteran teacher's skill is committing student names to memory or to have name cards prepared for students to place on their desks; classroom management begins with names. The veteran teacher also knows that learning a particular student's name the first few minutes of the first class could be an indicator of behavior problems to come; "Is it a good thing that I have said your name three times in the past 5 minutes?"

3. Creates a Seating Chart that is Flexible:

The alphabetized seating chart is a standard, but the veteran teacher knows this seating plan is only temporary. The real seating plan is a map that reveals the hot spots in the room:  the "keep an eye on corner, the "needs attention row", the "seat for the distracted".

When confronted with a request for preferential seating, the veteran teacher knows this may not be the first row seat as this request is often interpreted to mean. Preferential seating could be the second row when visual or audio is range is important. The veteran teacher might even use the back of the room for preferential seating as a place to offer discreet support.

4. Gathers Parent Contact Information:

The veteran teacher knows to collect parent/guardian contact information during the first week of school. Records, digital or otherwise, from the main office are sometimes incomplete or out-dated. Real time information on parent/guardian contact ("Who would you like me to call if I have to call home?") with current phone or e-mail is an important resource that the veteran teacher maintains and updates regularly.

5. Befriends the Custodian:

The veteran teacher knows the most important staff members in the building can be found in the office of the custodian. Those first days of school, when the classroom is one desk short, when the boxes of new textbooks arrive, or when the window blinds have suffered their first student-caused tangle, the custodial office releases its heroes. The veteran teacher knows how to ask politely when asking to be rescued, and how to reward ("Here's a coffee gift card!") afterward.

6. Locates and Organizes the Classroom Resources:

The veteran teacher knows where to look for resources in the school building, but even more important than that, the veteran teacher knows how to organized and store resources to last throughout the school year. In cases where resources are particularly tight, the veteran teacher knows how to make these resources last by rationing. The veteran teacher always has a hidden stash of paper, sometimes even in colors.

7. Avoids the Copy Room the First Week of School:

The veteran teacher will not be seen in the copy room the first week of school because all the reproducibles necessary for the first week are already printed the last week of school (see aforementioned stash of paper). 

8. Sets up Procedures Before Delivering Content:

The veteran teacher is clear about the procedures before delivering content, and there are directions posted or reproduced for student use (see aforementioned copy room printing the last week of school).

The veteran teacher knows what procedures are most useful when instructional strategies (class discussions, exit slips, turn and talks, etc.) are used in delivering content.....AND
 Practices, Practices, Practices:
The veteran teacher practices classroom procedures daily from the first day of school because the veteran teacher knows that education must be a process before it can result in a product.

9. Prepares for Inclement Conditions in the Classroom:

There may be a few articles of clothing tucked away in the tiny personal closet used by the veteran teacher, yet these well-chosen sweaters or scarves can improve the level of comfort in drafty to bitterly cold classrooms. A pair of sensible shoes may be included as well. To combat the heat generated by sunlight baking the classroom those first and last weeks of school, a small personal fan, attached to a length extension cord to meet the nearest socket, is also tucked away.

10 . Supports the New Teacher(s): 

The most critical role the veteran teacher can play in a school is to support the new teacher(s). Whether this support comes in the direct form of mentoring or by simply sharing a lesson plan or instructional strategy, the veteran teacher can make a new or even novice teacher's transition into the classroom smoother.  

There is wisdom in a veteran teacher's  "been there, done that", because, once upon a time, the veteran was a new teacher going "back-to-school".