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Making Sure the
First Day of School
Goes Smoothly
(Part 2)


The back-to-school letter is a staple of many teachers and school principals. "My back-to-school letter gets mailed home in early August. That letter always includes the name of the child's new teacher and invites parents to write a letter to the teacher. That gives parents an opportunity to tell the teacher everything he or she might want or need to know about the child on the first day of school. [In addition we] invite students and their parents to drop in for a 'Meet Your Teacher' event late in the afternoon two days before school starts. That event, which lasts an hour, gives students a chance to go to their classrooms and find their desks, cubbies, or backpack hooks, and to meet some of the other kids who will be in the class. It gives parents a chance to put a face to the teacher's name and to chat informally. While this is going on, the school PTO holds an ice cream social on the front lawn. That way, parents drop in on the classroom and then move right back out. Traffic does not get bogged down in the classrooms." (Dr. Lolli Haws)

"You can't be too organized on the first day of school. Put everything in writing, then keep it in a database for next year. I work very closely with the head custodian before school starts. I have a checklist that includes everything he needs to get things ready. That way, the custodian will be 'on my side' when I make those inevitable requests on opening day." (Tony Pallija)

Probably the most important thing for a new principal -- or any principal -- to remember about the first day of school is to be visible! "This is not the day to hide in your office," said principal Kim McLean. "Greet students at the door, wander the halls, poke your head in on the classes, walk out to the busses" Principal Nancy Jenkins urges, "Put everything else on the back burner. This is the day to meet and greet and to smile, smile, smile. The community wants to see if you really care about kids, and you show that by being visible."

Locker assignments are a big deal on the first day. "For new students in the building, lockers can be their biggest dread. If you have lockers, be sure to have individuals available who can open the lockers with a key, or have lists of locker assignments and combinations and know the correct way to open them." (Ernest Elliott)

"Delegate everything you can. Once kids arrive, teachers want to be with them. They don't want to be dealing with not having enough desks or texts, or with wrong placements. Leave yourself the wiggle room to be able to handle those or other problems as they arise." (Brian Hazeltine)

Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"Great Starts: Veteran Principals Offer Opening Day Tips"

Looking for more ideas for getting the school year off to a great start? Be sure to check out Education World's Back to School theme page.