The First Week of a New School Year
Preparing for Your First Teaching Assignment
As teacher candidates begin applying for and securing jobs, we want to provide a brief preview of the first week of a new school year, with a special focus on first-year teachers! We understand that learning environments may look different this fall as schools and districts continue responding to Covid surges, so we encourage you to reach out to school administrators for your district’s most current policies and procedures.
Preparing for Your First Week
Success for your first week of school begins well before the first day of school. Here are some tips to consider in the month prior to the start of a new school year:
Reach out to your site administrator to ask about the following:
Start dates and teacher workdays
Grade-level and classroom assignment
Safety procedures and policies, including current Covid protocol
First year teacher support programs: You can visit the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) website to learn more about Teacher Induction in California. If you scroll all the way down on this page, you will find region-specific institutions supporting teacher induction programs.
Ask for access to students' cumulative folders and make note of any medical or learning needs. Take caution when reading previous teachers' behavioral feedback, though, as you will want to get to know your students' strengths and areas for growth.
If possible, connect with your grade-level/subject colleagues:
Start to develop relationships with your grade-level/subject team.
It would be good for you to know what supplies will help you begin the school year, and your grade-level/subject colleagues may be able to offer suggestions.
Sometimes, teachers will reach out to students’ families before the first day of school. Having contact with your site administrator and grade-level/subject colleagues can help you decide if this is something you want to do.
Visit your new school site:
It is likely you will have access to your classroom before the start of the school year, so take advantage of this early access to start setting up your learning environment. You can read one of these articles for ideas: 32 Strategies for Building a Positive Learning Environment & How to Get a Clutter Free Classroom the KonMari Way.
Make sure you know your school’s layout, including the following:
Office, library, cafeteria, technology center/computer room
Teacher work and break rooms
Student and teacher restrooms
Playground (elementary teachers)
The First Day
Thinking about the first day of your first teaching assignment can evoke a mix of emotions: excitement, eagerness, anxiety, uncertainty, fear. This is normal! Most teachers will feel these emotions with every first day of a new year well into their teaching careers. It helps to remember that the students likely feel these same emotions. If you haven’t yet, it may help to read “First Day Jitters” before your first day. Here is a video read aloud: First Day Jitters.
In addition, here are some suggestions to make your first day of school fun and successful:
Be prepared and arrive early so you can check in with the office, check your mailbox, and find a quiet moment to mentally prepare! Remember our Self Care During Clinical Practice newsletter? Some of these strategies and tools will help you throughout your career :-)
Stand at your door and greet every single student as they walk into your classroom
Have meaningful and fun activities planned, both academic and social. It’s important to start getting to know your students, and letting them get to know each other, from day one, but it’s also okay to start learning, too.
Make sure you have an engaging activity or assignment on students’ desks before they enter the classroom so they have something to do while you get situated. There may be opening tasks, such as taking attendance or helping individual students find their seats, so giving the rest of the class a task will free you up to get settled.
As students work on their morning task, start observing and taking notes. It might help to have a spreadsheet with your class roster on a clipboard so you can jot down observations.
Introduce, practice, and reinforce classroom norms, expectations, and procedures the moment students enter your classroom:
Before inviting students into the classroom, introduce yourself and give instructions, such as “Please hang your backpacks on the hooks, find your assigned seat, and begin working on the assigned activity at your desks.” This will allow you to remain at the door and greet each student individually.
You can have class norms and procedures pre-planned, or you can co-create your classroom norms and procedures with students on the first day of school. What’s important is that you implement these rules and procedures early and consistently.
Post your classroom norms, expectations, and procedures in the classroom for frequent referencing.
Wrap up your first day with enthusiasm: As with your opening routine, make sure you say goodbye to each student individually.
Elementary teachers: Depending on your grade-level and school-site procedures, you will either walk students to a central location for student pickup or you will excuse students from the classroom. In either case, thank each student for a wonderful first day and let them know you can’t wait to see them tomorrow!
Here are two resources you can visit for more ideas on having a successful first day of school:
If your school year begins on a Monday, which is often not the case, you will have a full first week. However, many schools will host beginning of the year professional development days and/or teacher work days, so your first week may only span two-to-four days. In any case, the days after your much-anticipated first day need careful consideration, too:
Be prepared and arrive early so you can check in with the office, check your mailbox, and find a quiet moment to mentally prepare! These should be daily habits to help you maintain success throughout your school year.
Stand at your door and greet every single student as they walk into your classroom. Again, make this a daily habit.
Continue to practice and reinforce classroom norms, expectations, and procedures. Consistency is key!
Make contact with students' families at some point during your first week of school. Find ways to connect with each family to start building relationships and rapport. While our “Communication Methods” newsletter focuses on virtual and hybrid learning environments, some of the strategies might prove helpful for reaching all families.
Check in with your school-site administration and grade-level/subject colleagues. Do not try to “go it alone”! Reach out to others at your school site for support and guidance.