5 Ways to Make It Your Best School Year Ever

The 2017-2018 school year is just around the corner! Let's make it your best one yet! Check out these five tips to show you how! This post does contain affiliate links. 

1.Make your classroom a happy place to be! 

Your classroom is YOUR classroom! Make it a place you're excited to come everyday and a place that makes you feel inspired! Choose colors that you love and decorations that make you smile!

An instant way to brighten your classroom up is to add these! They come in SO many fun colors and are easy to hang with clear fishing line and paper clips! They are also pretty affordable! I also used this spray paint and got after my filing cabinets. That really brightened up that corner of my classroom! 

What little items you could add to your classroom to make it a happy place? A single cup coffee maker to pick you up in the morning? A small fridge to hold your daily Dr. Pepper? Maybe a few pictures or your family in cute frames or a bulletin board to hold inspirational quotes? Make your classroom a happy place for everyone, including YOU!

2. Leave your teacher table or desk clean everyday! 

Sure, we all have those days when you have to rush out after school and don't have time to tidy things up, but I always come in the next morning and feel automatically stressed and scattered. Even if it's just putting everything in a nice, neat pile...DO IT. I have found that having a clip board to at least clip loose papers on helps me to not feel so scattered!

3. Create a classroom and school community! 
We all know how important this one is and it needs to start from Day 1! On the first day of school I read this book, that I love! It's a great book for talking about feelings and ways to make other people feel good! We created this (not cute) chart after reading the book. 

Every morning we have a quick morning meeting and I try to incorporate things into that time to promote that classroom community! One of my favorite things we do is the Wish You Well Board. I saw this idea from a classroom I volunteered in back in my high school days and it just stuck with me. 
I just use a magnetic pizza pan like this ^^^ and put a picture of each child on a magnet. Each day we see who is missing from out school family and move them to the middle of the board. Then we sing this song (to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell):

We wish you well, 
We wish you well, 
All through our day today we wish ________ well. 

It makes students feel good when they return knowing that we wished them well and it reinforces that message that we are a family and when someone isn't here we miss them!

I also think it's important to build in some sharing time! Those language skills are SO important and kids love sharing the happenings of their life or what they are working on during station time! I have some pretend microphones (found at the party store or HERE) and the kids LOVE using them when they share with the class. (SIDENOTE: I actually gave pretend microphones to my teammates one year. See the picture above.)

Get to know your students and value their work! I have a Meet the Authors board display outside of my classroom! Students will out a little questionnaire about themselves and I type it up with a picture! Then their biography is displayed next to their work throughout the year! Read more about it HERE. 

 I also think it's important to form relationships with parents and families too! I always send a little heartfelt note to each family after the first week of school that thanks them for sharing their child with me and just a few of the things I love about their baby!

4. Document, document, document. 
There is nothing worse than getting into a tough situation with a parent, coworker, etc. Be sure to take detailed notes from phone calls, parent conferences, team meetings or any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable at all. Email is my favorite form of communication because all you have to to do it print it if you need it! Even if I spoke with a parent on the phone or at a conference, I usually send a follow up email just to formally document and make note of what we talked about, needed follow up, etc. Seriously, you never know when you might need this type of documentation. I also frequently run copies of student work. I totally know that spending time at the copier can quickly eat up time that you don't have, but documentation is crucial! If you have a school iPad and you are in a hurry, you can always take a picture of student work too!  A date stamp is a must! 

5. Do what you can to stay ahead. 
If I could give you only one tip it would be this! It is SO easy to get busy and before you know it you can't catch up. Once upon a time, I was a first year teacher and worked up at school every weekend. I almost prided myself on that.
By Friday, I was just so tired that I would rather go home and come back over the weekend. Then Sunday would come around and I spent that entire day trying to get ready for Monday and the process just repeated it's self every week. You know what happened? I was stressed, exhausted, got mono and every other germ that invaded my Kindergarten classroom because I was so worn down. Over the past few years I have worked really hard during the week to try and give myself some time off on the weekends. Does that make me a bad teacher? Absolutely not. Do I care about my students any less? Of course not!  If anything, it has made me a better teacher! I am 100% again on Monday morning; I manage my time better; and I spend time doing things I enjoy with people I love. Sounds great, right? How can you make that happen? Here are a few things helped me:

  • Look ahead! Each month, I post a monthly blog series called Getting Ahead of the Game. The purpose of this blog is to help you start thinking and planning ahead for the next month before that month even happens. Be sure to sign up for my emails on the side bar or subscribe to my blog!

  • Get what you can ready for the whole school year. Spend a chunk of time getting something ready that will benefit you for the entire year! For example, I would rather spend 2 or 3 hours preparing math journal prompts for the whole school year than spend 15 minutes a week doing it. 
Check out my first grade math journal prompts for the entire school year HERE. 

Go ahead and get birthday gifts for your students ready too! You grab this cookie gift tag from a previous post HERE. 
  • Take control of your planning time! Try to schedule your planning time to be beneficial to you. This year I am going to try and stick to something like this:
    • Mondays: Answer Emails, Lesson Planning
    • Tuesday: Answer Emails, Lesson Plans
    • Wednesday: Team Meeting
    • Thursday: Plan guided reading and small groups for the next year
    • Friday: Organize and lay out everything for the following week, Finish Grading 
  • Recruit some help! Can someone come and run your copies for you? Do you have a volunteer that could get those craft pieces ready? Could you email the librarian the books you need? Could your team mate prep math stuff for you and you will get ready reading stuff for him? Don't be afraid to ask for help!
  • I found this book to be really inspiring and really helped me get control of my time! It's up to you to make it happen!

Now don't get me wrong! There are always going to be busy weeks and times when things just don't get done and I am doing things over the weekend. If that happens, I try really hard to make it "fun" stuff I'm doing on the weekend. Like I would much rather sit on the couch Saturday morning and cut lamination than write lesson plans with state standards and higher level questions stems. I always save my school errands, classroom crafting and serious pinning for the weekend too because that's fun and relaxing to me! : )
Cheers to making this the best school year yet! 

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