My school has never had the luxury of going back a week early or even coming in on our own free will to begin th daunting task of preparing for a new school year. This year, our orientation days got cut from 2 to 1. YIKES. In my first years of teaching, I think I had trouble understand what was most important to get situated during the beginning of the year. This lead to me always having these grand ideas about centers and schedules, just to get thrown to the wayside when they year started getting too hectic. I think no matter how much time or how organized you are, the beginning of the year can feel really frantic. Since my colleagues and I are going to be super limited going back, I’m really trying to think of the most time sensitive and most important things that NEED to be done.
Centers- set up your centers using any bookshelves or dividers you can get your hands on. Don’t worry if the shelves are left barren for the first week or so, it is just important to get your centers situated so you can move on to number 2.
Scheduling- make a bare bones schedule of how the class is going to run. It’s a good idea to get the students in to some sort of routine, even if it’s not going to stay the exact way. Don’t worry about the schedule being perfect, your paras and students will not get mad at you. Plus, if you have never set up a really detailed schedule, this can also be a good opportunity to get your students and staff in the swing of working this way.
Work- Do not feel like you need to dive in to heavy academics the first week of school. Don’t do it! The IEP goal work and assessments can wait. You, your staff, and especially your students have enough going on without the demands of challenging work. Throw a few file folders, work tasks and easy worksheet (heck, even coloring and word searches are okay in my book).
Pairing- You didn’t all the sudden become close with your bff’s when your first met, did you? Relationship take time to build, and the relationships between your students and staff are no different. It’s fine to just play with your guys the first week of school in order for them to pair you with reinforcement. Have some reinforcing items at yours station- toys, sensory items, even food. Don’t be afraid to give out freebies. You want your students to understand that good stuff happens when you’re around. I have heard countless stories of students and staff that just didn’t get along, and a little pairing is what made the difference between really struggling with a student. Do it now before there can be any issues!
Reinforcement systems- Whether it’s a class token economy or something individualized from a student’s behavior intervention plan, set up those systems. Coming from experience, it’s way easier to implement something right away for the class than try to do so. Worse comes to worse, you can always tweak it if necessary.
Thank your staff- Make sure you thank your staff at the end of the day. The beginning of the year is crazy for anyone involved, and I am always so impressed with how flexible and understanding paras tend to be. It’s a good habit to get in to, because just like our kiddos, they need reinforcement too.