Preparing for classes to start up again is an exciting but challenging process. There are so many different aspects to focus on, from your course materials to your lesson plan to your classroom setup, and of course all your new students. It can certainly be overwhelming and easy to forget something, so use this list as a reference!
Brush Up on the Material
One of the first places to start preparing for classes is to take a look over your material. Go through each class you’ll be teaching and do a quick reading of the materials yourself, especially the first few units you’ll start with. Taking this time to read through the different books and chapters you’ve assigned as well as other readings and homework you plan to assign will help you feel confident in what you need to cover and what can wait the first few weeks of class. It will also help you reevaluate and find any areas of the course that could use some tweaking.
As you gather supplies for your classroom, it’s important to stock up on the essentials like paper, scissors, tape, and other typical materials. But in addition to getting these basics, think of the items you wished you’d had last year. Things such as colored duct tape, museum putty, or a small mirror are all examples of what you wouldn’t expect to need, but may be extremely useful. Get an extra clock you can put on the opposite wall of the classroom from the one already there, so no matter which end you’re teaching from you will always be timely!
Decorate the Classroom
Decorating your classroom is one of the most fun but simultaneously most challenging parts of preparing your classroom for school to start. There are a variety of factors to consider when thinking about your classroom—you’ll want to think about desk organization and if you want to facilitate group discussion or have individual desks facing the front of the room. Additionally, as you set up the classroom you may decide to focus on a particular theme like the beach or a cartoon, or you may decide to focus on a color scheme. Having some kind of theme can definitely give the room a fun twist and help your students feel excited about the year.
Make the Classroom Safe
Having a truly safe classroom requires a lot of thought on your part as the teacher. You should make sure you think carefully about the physical safety of your classroom—try to eliminate sharp corners, make sure that fire extinguishers are readily accessible, and make sure desks are fully functional. There are a variety of different hacks you can use to help save space and keep your classroom safe. For example, safety hooks help get rid of clutter in the classroom and increase walkable space. You should also think carefully about the emotional safety of your classroom. Ultimately, the way you teach your class and form relationships with your students will determine this level of safety. But there are things you can do to prepare. Even simple things like putting up quotations or rules on kindness will show students that you see and care about them.
Start Learning the Kids’ Names
One of the best things you can do before classes start is to try to learn some of the children’s names and faces. If you have access to a list of students in your class, you can make flashcards and practice throughout the day. While you’re in line at the grocery store or on the bus, pull out your flashcards—whether paper or on an app—and quiz yourself. Going through students’ names and learning their faces bit by bit will not only make your transition through the start of classes much easier, but it will also help you build a rapport with the children early on.
Revisit Class Outlines
Before you start classes, it’s a good idea to take another look at your class outlines. With the information you have about your incoming class as well as with any new insight you gained from teaching the course in the past, go through and tweak things. Think about current events and any other situations or factors that you might be able to integrate into the material in order to help keep the topics relevant and interesting to your students. Taking this time to customize your class outline will help you feel more confident in your material and will help the class feel more tailored to the students.
Finalize Field Trips
As you look forward to the school year, there are so many different things that you need to be prepared for from your individual students’ needs to the curriculum requirements to eventual tests. But considering the value of experiential learning and how much children retain from things like field trips, they should be nailed down as much as possible in advance. Because bringing in large school groups requires significant resources and coordination, making sure you have finalized plans for any and all field trips before the school year starts will make it much easier to focus on organizing things like scheduling buses and planning for chaperones as the date draws closer.
Take Some Personal Time
One of the final steps you should take before school really gets in the swing of things again is to breathe and recharge your batteries. Taking some time to pause and do some fun and relaxing things will help you feel more prepared and less frazzled to meet your new students. While it can be difficult to take a significant time off from your school preparation, a small staycation may be all that is needed to help you feel a little more rested before the start of school rolls around.
Regardless of how early you start preparing for classes to start up again, it is so easy to feel unprepared once they actually roll around. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Your best efforts mean a lot, and ultimately your capacity as a teacher is more evident through the meaningful relationships you make with students than with any other detail.
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