Whether this is your first or umpteenth school year as a teacher, here are 7 essential elements to help you plan for a successful first day! Back to school, everyone!

Define your classroom culture

Classroom culture is unique to each teacher and is the foundation for a positive and rewarding school year.

What is your vision for how your classroom will function on a daily basis? What are the core values you want to develop and share with your students? What is your teaching style?

Clearly defining your classroom culture and being true to your most cherished values will allow you to shine in your environment and foster a harmonious growth for your students. Examples of values? Collaboration, commitment and synergy, as well as kindness, creativity and autonomy. The goal is for your group to share these same values on a daily basis, like a lifestyle. Inform your colleagues and parents.

Setting up your dream classroom

Your classroom is a vital part of the school year for both you and your students. It is the little house you will all share together for about 180 school days. The key to a successful classroom design is to create a positive, functional learning environment that is comfortable to be in, and in which all learners feel they can thrive.

Make sure you have all the necessary furniture and the required number of desks and chairs. Arrange the desks in a way that is convenient for you and appropriate for the age group of your students. Grouped? Individually? In a circle? In rows? Remember, the same arrangement that worked well last school year may not be appropriate for your new students. Each group is unique!

Set up different sections, such as a collaborative space, a reading/lounge area, a tech center and more. Fill the classroom library with a variety of exciting books that will make friends envious. Create interactive bulletin boards, set up learning centers and post the classroom rules, the calendar and the schedule. Organize displays, laminate and hang various posters related to your classroom culture.

While it is important to organize the classroom environment in advance, it is suggested that you do not overload the walls at the beginning of the school year. Students may feel overwhelmed by all the available information. Keep a few posters as surprises to pull out and discuss with your group over the weeks.

Decorate your classroom and doorway and create a gallery area, where little artists can proudly display their artwork!

Have you thought about incorporating flexible furniture? There are many proven educational benefits to adding flexible furniture to your classroom. To learn more about the benefits of flexible furniture in a school setting, click here: Flexible classrooms for better learning

Plan parent-teacher communication

The students’ parents are your greatest allies during the school year. To build trust and cooperation quickly, prepare a welcome letter introducing yourself, explaining your classroom culture and providing your professional contact information. The children can give it to their parents at the end of the first day of school. This will establish a positive first contact well before the parent-teacher meeting.

Also establish how you will communicate with them and share their child’s daily classroom experience on a regular basis. Via the agenda? Via a communication application? Via a class website?

Getting to know your school

If you are new to the school or if this is your first school year, get to know your fellow teachers, support staff and administration. Meet with the principal to discuss the requirements of your position and your vision for it. Learn about the school’s policies and regulations. Visit the school, take an interest in and get to know the different areas outside of your classroom, such as the library, the multimedia room, the gym, the music room, the daycare, the cafeteria, the teacher’s lounge, the photocopy room, etc. Make a list of questions, as needed. Do you need computer access codes? How does the parking work? Do you need any keys? These little logistical details make all the difference!

Reflect on classroom management

Still in line with your classroom culture, plan how you want to function with your students. Think about the type of discipline you would like to maintain throughout the year. Determine the ground rules for your class and involve the children in choosing other rules. The first few weeks of school are a time to establish a safe routine and overall smooth group functioning. How do you want the children to enter the room? In a row? Quietly? By high-fiving? What is the morning, lunch and afternoon routine? How do students hand in their homework or assignments? What is the typical schedule for a day where you are the leader? Do you use a positive reinforcement system to encourage good behaviour? Do you have a small classroom pet?

Plan your teaching

Familiarize yourself with the content of the ministerial curricula and the essential knowledge of the subjects you teach. Should pedagogical planning be the same for teachers at the same level? If so, contact your colleagues, who will probably be happy to share their plans from previous school years. Prepare the first few weeks of teaching for each subject in great detail. Make sure you have all the necessary materials, including copies of exercises and lessons. Be aware of your students’ particular needs (special educational supports, cognitive disabilities, medical conditions). Prepare accordingly and team up with the appropriate internal resources.

Make Back to School Day a memorable moment

The first day of school should be well organized and memorable for everyone! Be sure to pronounce each student’s full name appropriately. Validate with your colleagues in advance for names you are unsure of pronouncing. Plan an icebreaking game (or games) so you can match names to the new little faces and learn more about what they like. For not one, but ten fun activity ideas, click right here: 10 Back to School Icebreakers

Be in control, welcoming and professional! Find out about the special back-to-school process ahead of time and take an interest in how your fellow teachers at the same grade level are planning for this big first day.

Want to make this day even more memorable for your students? Organizing an activity for all the classes in your school can be a great way to do this. The article 3 Great Back to School Group Activities may inspire you!