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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 19 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Tips and Tricks for Back to School

Back to school---it’s here!

There are many emotions and thoughts about returning back to school.  Excitement, joy, pressure, sadness and anxiety might be a few.  It depends who you are, what kind of emotion you are feeling.  Are you a first year teacher?  Are you a veteran teacher and maybe it is your last year?  Are you a new student to a school district? Maybe you are a graduating senior or maybe just moving schools within your school district? Are you a parent dropping your baby off for the first time?  So, as you can imagine, back to school can mean so many things depending on who you are.   Let’s make this back to school the best one yet for everyone involved! 

If you are a teacher this is such an exciting time!  Good luck and have fun!

Tips and Tricks for teachers to make the beginning of school the best it can be:

Be the Best Teacher You Can Be:  This can mean so many things.  To me, being a great teacher means I am 1. Prepared.  2. I am excited and have a great and positive attitude. 3. I genuinely care about my students and their families 4. I am committed to being at school every day. 5. I will cheer each student on to success and ensure that they will have the best experience that year that they can.  You set the tone for your classroom and your entire year. 6. I understand that I must build a home-school relationship and that we will set goals for each child. 7. It is my mission to reach each student individually and allow them to make mistakes and learn. 8. Be mindful 9. Have a growth-mindset 10. Continue learning and attending professional development.

These are two articles I have written that explore different ways to engage students and ensure that they are excited about learning. 

Get Students Excited about Learning

Set High Expectations for All Students

Organize Your Classroom: An organized classroom is bright, colorful, engaging, warm, welcoming and a place that you want to come each day. I decided the first year that I was teaching, my classroom would be my second home---because honestly, as we all know, it really is!  I wanted my students to be excited to be there and I wanted to love the place I was all day too.  Organization is the way your classroom is set up, the weekly planning that you strive for, the daily schedule and routine along with the procedures you have set up and the way you run your classroom.  I always tell people my classroom was organized chaos because I taught 4 and 5 year olds but they knew what they were doing, they were engaged in their learning and it was a busy classroom.

This article prepares even the veteran teacher for a fantastic first week!

How to Prepare for the First Week Of School

Teach Procedures: Procedures are how to do something.  I believe that sometimes procedures and routines are intertwined incorrectly.  They do go hand in hand and should be present at the same time but procedures must be taught over and over and if they aren’t completed correctly you must do them again.  Some procedures that need to be taught in the beginning are: How to enter the classroom, what to do after they enter the classroom, how roll is taken, how to line up at the door, how to wait to use the restroom, how to sit on the carpet at group time, how to engage in center activity, how to clean up an area, how to get ready for lunch and how to get ready to go home.  These are just a few procedures that must be taught from the first day of school and gone over until they are common place in the classroom.  If they are missed or completed incorrectly go back and teach them again.  Many times they have to be retaught after Winter Break or even long weekends.

Teach Routines: Routines are something that happen each day, and the student knows what to expect next and there are no surprises.  Daily routines are vital for young children.  They must know and understand what is expected of them—this allows them to feel safe, nurtured and confident about themselves and their learning. A routine is how your classroom runs. For example, group time would be the  first thing you did each morning, then carpet time, center time, restroom break, lunch and recess etc.  A routine is much like a daily schedule and should be followed closely.

Teach Transitions: Transitions include going from one activity or lesson to another. If you teach your procedures and routines transitions happens very smoothly.  You can use almost anything for a transition: bells, musical instruments, the same song each time, clapping, and even a certain word.  My students knew when they were to begin cleaning up their centers because I played the same song each day. They also knew that they were going to transition from carpet time to their assigned center to get busy learning after the goodbye song played at group time. It was time to get ready to go home when they heard the bell ring. 

Here is an article about teaching transitions in the classroom:

Totally Terrific Transitions

Build A Classroom Community: A classroom community is built from the first day of school. A classroom community consists of members that respect and cheer each other on.  They understand people are different and make mistakes.  There are expectations, jobs, duties and responsibilities that each student carries out. They include each other, help to make the classroom a positive learning environment and incorporate rules and expectations as they are engaged in their learning. Team building activities and ice breakers allow students to get to know each other.  Show and tell, student of the week and an All About Me Bag helps students learn about different cultures and family lives. Classroom jobs allow students to have responsibility and take ownership in the classroom. Building a classroom community is vital for all members of the environment including the teacher.

Here are two articles on building a classroom community of learners:

Planning, Managing and Running a Classroom Community of Learners

Building a Classroom Community of Learners

Over Plan: Ensure that you are prepared for all situations and types of students as you begin back to school activities.  Remember some students have never been away from their families.  You are the very first person they are in contact with outside their immediate family.  Plan fun, engaging and developmentally appropriate team building activities and lessons that you can present and work on as a group.  Build that community of learners so they have ownership in the environment.

Build Relationships: Home school relationships are vital. I started building relationships with my families from the very first meeting which is back to school night before school even begins.  When you build relationships with families you feel better about calling home, sending home notes and giving families ideas and or advice.  Families also begin to trust you and your ideas and realize that you really do have their child’s best interest in mind.

These are two articles that I have writing on how I involved families in my classroom.

Involve families through Social Media

Family Forums

As you are preparing for back to school, know that you set the tone for the classroom and for the entire year. Make this the best year you have had yet!  Try something new that this article or the imbedded articles have provided you with, research new ideas in early childhood education, partner and collaborate with your colleagues and get to know yourself better----self-reflect.  Each year is different, the students, families, learning, themes etc everything is different---and that is good!  If you are continually changing and learning you are keeping up with this wonderful profession—TEACHING! Start today by having a growth mindset!