5 Simple Ways Teachers Can Get Ready for Back to School Season
By now, you’ve likely seen all of the markers welcoming the back to school season.
School supplies are on sale and on display.
Students are buying backpacks and new clothes.
You might be getting emails from your Principal again.
Regardless of how we feel about the back to school season, it’s here.
We go back to school in a few weeks – so I’m enjoying the last few weeks of travel I have before I start to think of how I can prepare my S.T.E.M. classroom.
In this article, I’m sharing 5 simple ways teachers can get ready for the back to school season.
Short on time? No worries! Pin this blog post to read later.
Some of these suggestions are time sensitive, but we’ll be sure to update this blog post annually as we get more ideas from our community.
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Now, let’s get into your tips and resources.
A Note About the Back to School Season
Before I dive into ways you can prepare for the back to school season, I want to acknowledge the feelings that I’m sure all of us have.
This time of year can be fraught with stress for students and teachers alike.
If you’re feeling stresses or anxious about heading back to school, you are NOT alone.
For the last couple of years, I’ve felt this wave of dread in the 1-2 weeks leading up to in-service week. It’s hard to explain why.
Part of it is surely the sadness of knowing I won’t see my family or friends as much for the next 9 months, but I know part of it goes deeper than that.
The new school year is when we’re forced to confront any gaps in knowledge we have. And for many of us, it’s when we reflect on how the previous year went.
It’s All a Cycle; This Too Shall Pass
I also want to take a moment and say, if you’re ever struggling with mental illness, please seek help. Prolonged stress, anxiety and depression can take a large toll on your mental, physical and emotional well-being.
And that’s on top of how it can affect your work, productivity, motivation, relationships and quality of life.
One thing that helps me, is to remember that what I go through during the year is generally in a cycle. No matter how I’m feeling right now, it will eventually pass.
Maybe you need to hear this today, or that you’re not alone – so I’ve decided to share my cycle with you.
Here’s the cycle.
Let me know in the comments of this blog post whether or not you can relate:
- June – I’m free! But I’m exhausted. Most of this month is used for recovery. This is when I usually take my bigger trips (I’m a huge travel junkie), and when I visit family & friends.
- July – The beginning of the month is great! I finally have some energy again. I’m ready to work my TpT store, create resources, go to PDs, attend conferences, and brainstorm for the upcoming school year. It’s “low-tide,” so to speak. It’s a time of fun and discovery, with no storm on the immediate horizon.
…but in the background, a tidal wave is building up. Anxiety and dread about everything that could go wrong in the upcoming school year start inching closer to the shore.
- August – After the first day of our pre-service (those few days of training before the school-year officially kicks off), my mind is usually put at ease. I connect with teachers I haven’t seen all summer, and my classroom finally starts coming together. I start to catch the vision I always have towards the beginning of the year, and my mind begins to buzz with ideas for my students.
I start getting organized – thinking of all the supplies, routines, procedures and materials that I’ll need for the first few weeks of school. I’m a S.T.E.M. teacher, so the prep for K-5 classes is no joke!
- September – By the start of this month, we’re about a month into the school-year. I’m usually in the groove of things, and looking forward to Labor Day Weekend – which usually falls around my birthday! September has always been a pretty good month for me.
- October – We have just over a week off for Fall Break in October. And by this time, I’m starting to feel pretty tired and burned out. It’ll be interesting to see whether that will be the same this year (since we’re starting on a 4-day workweek!), but I am usually soooo ready for that Fall Break. By the time I get back from that break, I’m looking forward to the longer weekends in November, which really motivates me to do the 2nd quarter push.
- November – While most teachers use this month to look forward to Thanksgiving, this isn’t something I do as much in my classroom, since I live and work on a reservation. Feelings about Thanksgiving are mixed here (understandably so), so it’s a reverent month focused on Native American heritage, the true history between Indians and Settlers, and generally celebrating the culture of the Apache people. It’s a great time of learning and reflection, and it inspires me to continue doing my best each day.
- December – The weeks before Winter Break are always ROUGH. But it helps to do a countdown in my head!
- January – By this time, we’re halfway through the school-year, so it’s easy to feel the pressure of the school-year standards and skills to be learned. This is when everyone starts thinking seriously about standardized tests and end-of-year projects.
- February – While the 3rd quarter stress is still happening, this month is always fun and busy. The 3-day weekend around Valentine’s Day is always helpful as a break – and where we are specifically, this is when our high school team almost always plays at basketball state championships. It’s a big time of excitement and fun in our overall community.
- March – The week or two before Spring Break is always rough, since both students AND teachers get antsy. And with standardized tests around the corner, it’s when the stress tends to get a little higher. But with the end of the school-year just around the corner, it’s usually a push to start pulling out all of the stops with engagement.
- April – A hot mess. Testing month. lol I hate April.
- May – THE LONGEST MONTH EVER. We have school up until Memorial Day weekend, so May is another really hard month for teachers and students here. The last two or three weeks are filled with fun, engaging, and if we’re honest – time filler activities – so everyone can just S U R V I V E.
This was a bit longer than I thought it would be, but I hope you can see that it’s not just you!!
I know I always feel comforted when I’m reminded that I’m going through something similar to others. So hopefully, this gives you similar feelings of comfort and solidarity.
A Special Note to First Year Teachers
There’s so much to learn, and I know you’re excited.
But too much information can lead to overwhelm!
Take it one day at a time.
Choose a mentor who knows their stuff, who shows that they care, and who will actually make time for you during the busy back to school season.
Get your blinders on and keep your focus. Remember what YOU know, and what YOUR students need. There will be so many shiny objects to distract you!
It’s perfect for a first-year teacher finding their footing!
How Teachers Can Prepare for the Back to School Season
Now, let’s get to why you came here.
For me, the absolute hardest part about the Back to School Season, is the fact that everything is vying for your attention.
Your family members, friends and pets want to spend time with you before you go back to your crazy teacher schedule.
Your Principal wants for you to prep your room and decorate your bulletin board.
Your students’ parents want to see a classroom and teacher who’s professional, put together, and prepared for the year.
…and all of the big box stores want your school supply money!
When we’re bombarded with all of these things we have to do, it can really stress you out.
Decide on Your Structures, Routines and Procedures
And this isn’t just for behavior and day-to-day operations.
You want to start getting a grasp on how your actual instruction will be delivered, and how students will interact with the daily concepts and content.
Consider Math Workshop for Math Instruction Structure
I cannot say enough about Math Workshop.
You could have all of the math center games and ideas in the world – but if you don’t know how everything is going to be organized and laid out, it’s easy to struggle.
If you’re new to Math Workshop and Guided Math Groups, definitely read through this other blog post as well. I did my best to make it the most comprehensive guide you’ll find on those two topics.
If you’re short on time to read, or if you’d rather listen, check out this episode of the Learning to Love Math Podcast. I share actionable tips, tricks, steps and resources to help you get started with Math Workshop.
If you’d like something a little more concrete to walk you through the planning for Math Workshop and Guided Math Groups, you can snag a copy of my Guided Math Groups Planning Guide.
It’s actually included in the bonuses for anyone who pays for an All-Access Pass for the Effectively Engaged Math Education Conference. But if you’d rather not attend that, you can buy the resource on its own for $17 in my TeachersPayTeachers store.
Attend Inspiring Professional Development Sessions
If you’re reading this before July 23rd, 2021, you should definitely check out the Effectively Engaged Math Education Conference! With free access, you can watch sessions July 23rd-26th. And if you purchase the All-Access Pass for $45, then you can access all of the session recordings (along with bonus content from every presenter!) for an entire year.*
*Please note that the above mentioned link is an affiliate link, and I do receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decide to purchase an All-Access Pass through my link.
During my session, I share how you can use Math Workshop and guided math groups to instill math fact fluency in your students. Those tutorials and tips would be a great place to start.
Download and Binge Upper Elementary Math Podcasts
By now, you likely already know that I run the Learning to Love math Podcast.
Look out for another blog post coming soon about the best podcasts for upper elementary teachers who teach math. But for now, another I’d love to recommend is the Building Math Minds Podcast.
But if you’re new to listening to podcasts, or if you’re just looking for another to binge, hers would be a great one to check out!
Shop the Back to School Sales for 2021
I would be remiss to not mention the sales that take place during the back to school season!
I live and teach on a reservation, so I really have to plan out my school supply shopping trips.
Back to School Sales at Target
If you’re a teacher near a Target, then you’ve probably already seen all of the sales going on there.
Target REALLY knows us!! This is why there are always great finds at the Dollar Spot.
They know our buying behavior SO well. We’ll spend $200 on $1 items… why are we like this?!
If you’re short on the basics, Target has some great deals right now for the back to school season.
Back to School Sales at Wal Mart
Love it or hate it, Wal Mart is everywhere if you live in the United States.
I long for the future when we have a Target up here in the White Mountains of Arizona. But until then, Wal Mart is where I do most of my shopping.
Honestly, I feel conflicted every time I spend hundreds of dollars at Wal Mart or Amazon, but they’ve become the go to’s for folks living in rural places since they’re so accessible.
Back to School Sales and Deals at Amazon for 2021
No matter where you are for the 2021-2022 school-year, Amazon can probably deliver to you.
Like I’ve said, I always feel a little bit conflicted about shopping at Amazon.
However, I do like that folks can buy and sell their own products on Amazon, and that bloggers like myself can make a small commission from purchases folks would make anyway.
Should you decide to buy back to school supplies on Amazon, consider using the links below.*
*Please note that I do earn a small commission when you make purchases on Amazon through my links, at no extra cost to you.
Hit Up Teachers Pay Teachers for Your Beginning of Year Resources
Even though I have a store on Teachers Pay Teachers, I still use it all the time as a teacher.
ESPECIALLY during the back to school season!
Sometimes, I just don’t have the energy to create my own resources or lessons, so I rely on other awesome TpT sellers to find my next activity or worksheet.
If you’re looking for some math fact games and math practice worksheets for your first few weeks of school (or to prep for your upper elementary math centers in general) I’ve got you covered!
Here are some of my most popular math resources for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers:
And if you’re not ready to buy resources today, be sure to follow my store for future resources that I create and share.
It’s Time to Get Ready for the Back to School Season
No matter how we feel about the back to school season, it’s here.
(even if you’re naturally not there yet)
It’s time to get ready, and get excited!
Your Next Steps
Are you feeling ready yet? Or excited? If not, that’s OK. I’m sure you’ll get there, especially once you feel more prepared. 🙂
Join Our PLC
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog post. If you haven’t already, be sure to join our Facebook Group here.
If you’re already a member (it’s free, by the way!), then click on this post to share your thoughts, and get other teachers’ back to school season tips!
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What are your favorite tips for the back to school season? I’d love to know!
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