While many parents are rejoicing and enthusiastically awaiting their children’s return back to school, many teachers feel a mixture of emotions from eagerness to meet new students and families to overwhelming dread at the preparations at hand. And indeed, setting up the classroom, organizing books, arranging seating assignments, prepping classroom materials, setting-up student online accounts and websites, planning lessons, reviewing IEPs, etc. are not things that you can just let slide.
Over the years, I’ve learned that while I am absolutely prepping for a new year, I am also building a classroom family. So to that end, there are a few things I make sure I include in my Back-to-School routine so that I can ensure I am fostering a classroom family.
- Send your students a welcome postcard
Every year, about a week before school starts, I send home a little postcard to get the kids excited for school. Children LOVE getting things addressed to them in the mail. It doesn’t have to be anything long or detailed, just a quick note telling them you’re looking forward to meeting them. “We’re getting the classroom ready. We can’t wait to meet you! See you on the first day of school!” It’s the first way you reach out to them to make that connection.
- Plan Classroom Get-to-Know-You and Classroom Bonding Activities
For the first few days of school, I spend time building classroom family. We do ice-breaking activities, people-hunt bingos, all about me activities (yes, even in the upper grades). I also read stories to my students: especially ones that focus on inclusion and being kind.
- Connect With Your Colleagues
Even with the best of classes, you will have challenging days. You are not alone. You have people around you who have been through it, too. Connect with your colleagues – and even with other teachers outside your school. We are fortunate in my school to have a very close-knit staff who collaborate well together.
Every year, we host a beginning-of-the-year BBQ to kick-off the new school year in our home. We welcome new staff members, and everyone is welcome to bring their significant others and children – no talking about school or students: just enjoying each other’s company and understanding that we have lives outside of school as well.
It’s helped us as a staff to build a true family atmosphere, and it’s these connections that help us keep going when the going gets tough. Our staff BBQ is a highlight of the year.
With our staff feeling like a connected community, we are able to foster that into our classroom as well.
Whether you are a new teacher or a seasoned veteran, we hope that you are able to build connections this school year! Here’s to a great year!