Back-to-School Tips and Advice

Educators share their best back-to-school advice to help you start the new school year with confidence.

Teacher standing in front of her class

by NEA Member Benefits

Each new school year brings its own challenges: calming your back-to-school jitters, organizing your classroom or workspace, getting to know your new students, dealing with the seemingly endless list of items you need to prepare—the list goes on and on. To help you get off to a great start, we asked your fellow NEA members to share their favorite back-to-school advice. 

Connect with your local association!

“Connect with your local association reps. Find out where the meetings are and go to them. Recruit everyone you can to attend and participate. The only way to protect your career and your family is to get active in your association.” –  Beverly K.

Meditate to calm back-to-school jitters

“This year I am starting a 21-day meditation right before school starts! This will relax me and give me the focus needed to start the school year off with positive energy.” – Lynda S.

Surf for ideas and supply deals

“I don't think I ever stop thinking about my classroom. A teacher is always thinking and planning 24/7. I check Pinterest for cute and motivating ideas. I browse through the Ed magazines when they start appearing in my mailbox.” – Robyn S.

Make a good first impression

“First, I like to take the time to carefully plan the layout of my classroom. This is the first impression the students have and also sets the tone for the rest of the year. Next, I like to establish basic rules and rituals that the students are expected to follow. When students arrive I go over my expectations and have them sign a ‘class treaty’.”  – Leah S.

Try something new

“For the first time this year, I am setting up potential groups from the information acquired from the elementary schools before I even meet the students. This will enable me to start groups right away instead of having to wait until after orientation.”  – Susan D.

Refresh your materials

“I usually begin looking through resource catalogs as soon as they start coming in. I’m always looking for new things to help the variety of learners in my room.” –  Joni S.

Make sure everything works BEFORE students arrive

“The most important activity I did in preparation for a new school year was to make sure that all of my computers were up-to-date with current operating system and application software. I also cleared out old files from the previous year.” – Donovan M.

Get copying done before the back-to-school rush

“Before leaving school in June, I run off my welcome letter to parents and students so the letters are available when the students pick up their schedules. I also run off the materials I need for the first two weeks of school in advance because sharing a common copying machine can be hectic at the beginning of school!” – Marguerite L.

Organize your room

“I prefer for my students to be situated in table groups. This allows for collaboration and also fosters a sense of community. I often try and gauge the disposition of my class make-up before coming to a final decision on layout. I also like to use ClassDojo as a means to hold students accountable for their behavior and provide parents with updates, as needed.” – Leah S.

Use games to get to know your students

“By the end of August, I get to see the list of students who are enrolling in my Geometry classes. I use the information to create a bingo game for the first day of school. They have to ask each other questions that are listed on their bingo board. Only one student name can be used per board. The purpose of the game is for students to get to know each other and the differences in their varied cultures.” – Nancy J.

Take it one day at a time

“I try to do one thing for school each day throughout the summer. No matter what I do, I usually have my Fourth of July panic but it all gets done. I've also been reading texts on brain studies to develop a relevant differentiated supervision study for the fall.” – Shawnee W.

Share your back-to-school jitters with your students

“I wrote a letter about me to my students, and it was in their mailboxes the first day of school. I prepared a bulletin board with a sample response in correct letter form and asked each student to write to me. I immediately knew where each student was in terms of writing ability. Many students saved the letter h/she had received from me that first day. I included bits about my family, pets, grandchildren and feelings of anxiety that dogged me before school started each year. I never once could sleep the night before the first day of school. I feel the shared thoughts were a bonding experience that put everyone at ease in the first hour of school.” – Carol P.