Here are a few things running through my mind as I recall the start to a school year. This will be the first time in 39 years that I do not head back to school when summer ends. Perhaps you will find something useful as you prepare for "heading back to school."
I worked in a district that had a restriction regarding the use of only 20% of the wall space for posters, word walls, and student work. We also had regular fire marshall inspections. Be aware of these things before setting up your classroom. Do not block exit ways, power adapters, or network cable boxes.
Take the time to share a brief bio about yourself. If you own a pet, be sure to share that with students and then open the discussion for students to share back. Consider including a few "Getting to Know You" activities into the week one lesson plans.
Students will be nervous on the first day, especially the students who are attending for the first time. Students newly enrolled, 6th graders heading to middle school, and new colleagues can be made to feel welcome by your actions and body language. Arrange for student buddies for lunch time and be sure students know their way to the next class.
You may have the opportunity to use school wide rules or create your own. Whichever you use, be consistent. Students appreciate knowing what you expect and they respond to the fairness perceived. I had one main rule: Do the best you can. Using a T-chart and identifying what you expect the room to 'look like/sound like' is a helpful way to handle a discussion about the rules. Early in my career, a student asked me why I always gave attention to the students that did not do their work. It made me pause, and I immediately changed my practice to praise and acknowledge those that did their work in a timely manner and who followed the rules. I will never know for sure, but I believe that is the main reason I had few discipline problems.
Assign jobs to students, whether it is to connect the computer to a projector or to collect homework. Stacking chairs at the end of your final class of the day helps your custodial staff clean a bit easier. Delegate tasks that can be done by others and this will provide a bit more student contact time for you.
When planning for instruction, you may be required to follow a specific curriculum map for your school, district, or state. Many states are implementing the Common Core State Standards. This will not limit your creativity for class work and projects. Once you decide what to teach, consider ways of presenting the material to your students. If you have designed a flipped or blended classroom, will you need to create video tutorials? Do you have handouts to prepare? Remember that Verizon’s Thinkfinity Content Partners have lessons available that contain all necessary materials and resources and are aligned to the CCSS.
If you are new to the profession or the school, feel free to ask questions of your administration and your colleagues. Remember there are no foolish questions.
Prepare for your absence
You will want to be with your students every day, but at times this isn't possible. Prepare your students and tell them what you expect in your absence. Follow through with any notes that may be left by the substitute. Prepare a "sub packet" that will assist your substitute and be sure to leave information on any student with special needs or considerations.
Personal Learning Communities
Consider joining and participating in one of the many available groups in the Verizon Thinkfinity Community. The I Teach group will offer resources, lesson ideas, and support. The Common Core group will focus on the standards and provide Content Partner information. The Mobile Learning group provides suggestions on integrating technology into your lessons. You are welcome to create your own PLC within the Thinkfinity Community.
Wishing you well for the coming school year!