The first day of school for me traditionally starts with decaffeinated coffee. Not my first choice, but I don’t need any extra stimulation. I usually haven’t slept the night before due to anticipation and excitement, but because of the adrenaline pumping through my veins, I feel pretty jazzed up.
Over the years, I’ve learned to control my stress level by being prepared.
My school starts around 7:45, and I find that I’m starving by 9:00 on the first day. All of the excitement takes a toll on our appetites. Pack a variety of high-protein, healthy snacks that you can shove down in a couple of minutes. My favorites are string cheese, peanut butter on part of a bagel, low-fat yogurt, and cottage cheese. Pair any of these with fruit to take the edge off until lunch. Don’t forget to pack snacks for the late afternoon lull as well!
A System of Organization
It’s the first day of school, and the sound of backpack zippers fills your classroom. Bright, shining faces dig out markers, crayons and glue sticks. Classroom supplies can take over every available space if you don’t have a system set up to deal with them.
Repeated questions like, “Where do you want this?” or “Where do I put this?” drive me insane, so I make sure that there are totes and boxes with signs taped to them, telling students what supplies go into each one. Collect whatever you don’t want lost or destroyed, like watercolor paint sets, glue, highlighters, post-its, and especially pencils. By the time March rolls around, pencils will be like gold in your classroom.
Lesson plans for the first week of school are a bit loose. If you’re more of a structured person like me, this can drive you a little crazy.
I like to have more activities and lessons planned than I need. Instead of one get-to-know-you game, I have three planned. Make a few extra photocopies of each sheet just to make sure you have enough, and plan extra activities. If you don’t get through everything on the first day, consider sprinkling the rest of the first week of school with these activities.
Set Three Goals
Now that you’re over-planned, focus on three main goals for the first day. My first goal was getting the kids interacting with each other and me. The second goal was setting up classroom rules and expectations, which took a good chunk of time because it was a whole-group activity. The third was an initial art project, such as a self-portrait, to take us through the afternoon.
Don’t forget that both you and the students will have low tolerance for sitting and paying attention. Setting goals for the first day will help keep everyone focused, which is important after weeks of summer fun.
Don’t Forget Dinner
It’s vital during September that you never have to ask, “What’s for dinner?” Going out every night is expensive, so if you have a freezer, now is the time to take advantage of it. I’m not an enthusiastic cook, but I have teacher-friends who will cook meals in advance and store them in the freezer specifically for the month of September.
I like to take a more convenient route and stock up at Costco and other grocery stores about two weeks before school starts. I make sure we have frozen meals appropriate for dinner, as well as smaller ones to grab for lunches during the week. I also buy extra milk, eggs, bread and cheese; this way, fruits and vegetables can be the focus of any weekly shopping, which is quick and easy.
Take some time to prepare for the first day of school, and hopefully get some sleep the night before!