Teaching is not for the faint-hearted. I can assure you! I’m going into my seventh year of teaching (all in full-day kindergarten) and it has been a whirlwind. So much has changed in just that short time. One thing never does, though. My ability to underestimate how much time it takes to preplan before the year begins! Maybe I’m a slow learner, I’m not sure. I like to blame it on the last two years of my life completing National Boards. To be honest, I’m not sure. This year, though, I have some sure-fire ways I plan to start my year off right. I’m not talking about curriculum, yet. My first six weeks is focused on community building.
It’s possible you meet with kids’ families prior to school’s start. Some states may not do this. For those of us who do, I put all my files and assessments aside for completing our WAKids assessments. This is what Washington State has named the kindergarten readiness assessments. This includes an agenda I use every single year.
- Have an Agenda ready for Kindergarten Conferences
Every year I go through the same protocol. I aligned it with the Teaching Strategies Gold ™ standards and have a list of activities in a specific order that I complete. Each year, I seem to be able to fit in more of the assessments. However, it does take extra planning and preparing. I also schedule my conferences for a full hour instead of forty-five minutes. When I call families, I let them know what our agenda is and what I expect them to bring (if anything). Sometimes it’s a picture to put on their desk the first day of school. Either way you plan it, An agenda will help you stay on track. In your agenda, I also recommending you write down how much time you have (approximately) for each task/subject so that you can keep the conference moving forward. Some agendas are blown out of the water and that’s okay, too. Sometimes, families and their needs are far more important.
- Get out the Kleenex!
Kleenex is not just for the winter months when you are coughing and blowing your nose from the latest illness. Nor is it just for Spring when the sneezes come upon you from those dainty little flowers. It’s for that first day of kindergarten. Some years, all kids are ready to go and start school the very first day. They have seen brother and sister do it and they are ready too. Some kids are only-children, have never attended preschool, daycare or may not have been socialized. This is a real culture shock for them. Suddenly, they are expected to take turns with you. The adult must be shared? I know. It is daunting. Take out the Kleenex and have it ready.
Kleenex is also for parents. For many parents, this is such a tremendous milestone for their kids. It is an important occasion with pictures, tears, and if it is their first or youngest, it might be especially emotional. Sensitivity can be handed in the form of a single tissue.
- Put away the special stuff!
Everyone wants their classroom to look inviting. However, it’s unwise to put out all the crayons, all the scissors, all the everything in plain sight until you learn how your new classroom organism functions. It really is like an organism. Some classrooms are much more responsible, and others will tear apart your beautifully decorated tables and décor in a quick minute. Your eyes can’t be everywhere, so resist the temptation to put everything out the first day or even the first week until you get to know your kids. Otherwise, you may end up with a haircut the first day! As a tip, consider hanging curtains with a tension rod under your shelves where manipulatives, books and important materials are stored. Out of sight, is usually out of mind. Once you teach the kids procedures on how to use the materials, put them away and any safety measures, you can start to put more materials out.
- Have sub plans ready to go the First Day!
It’s crazy to think that you would need sub plans within the first week of school, but it is possible. I was sick my second day of school the first year I taught. I’ve had laryngitis so many times, I cannot count. On the first day of school or ideally, at kindergarten conferences, I have student headshots taken by a volunteer. I print them out and add them to a visual checklist. Underneath, I add how they get home, the name of that person and any special safety info. This might include health alerts. I use this for when I dismiss students the first day (they don’t leave my side until I personally hand them over to mom, dad, grandpa, auntie). I have many copies made and it’s also perfect for guest teachers who don’t know your kids. Plus, you never know when you might have a lock down, fire drill or evacuation.
- Make a List of Procedures
There are so many procedures to teach in kindergarten. That is what makes you, as an educator, so very special. When kids go to first grade, they’ve had experience at school because of you! In kindergarten, you have a box of jelly beans with many different flavors. You never know what you are going to get. So, make a list of the most important procedures the first day of school, the first week and then the first month. Priorities are a must. Attention signal, how to raise your hand, walk in a line, hold the door, walk through the lunch line, sit down in your seat, and wait until I call you before parents come, is all in my first day. I just add from there. Cutting and gluing are not in my first week. Maybe the second. This depends on my kids. Know your kids first. BUT, do include some fun things. I had a parent do painting with my kids the first day of school this year and it was a huge success. Volunteer is crucial. I can’t expect my kids to be independent enough for me to do painting like that with them until later.
It’s going to be crazy. It’s crazy every year and every year gets better…mostly J Just know you are going to be dog-tired. I tell my daughter my bedtime in the fall is 6:30. I go lay down in my bed, relax for a couple of hours (that’s how long it takes me) and then go to sleep and repeat for the first month of school. It’s exhausting and amazing! There’s only one change for this year, though. I’m hoping a fixed hot tub is in my future. So, if you have one of those, go for it.