First day jitters are not reserved for our students. Teacher first day jitters are on a whole different level. Those jitters may slowly grow until your in full blown panic attach mode. This anxiety over the first day doesn’t use pop up because you don’t know what you are doing. You probably have amazing plans on how your room will room, schedules, routines, work tasks, data – the ideas are all there. But the big question is – how do you get there? What do you do on that first day when the routines aren’t there yet? What’s fun and exciting but not overwhelming? What’s structured enough to give our learners the support that they need but not overly structured that you feel like you are starting the year in the middle of October? It’s confusing!

Check out my tips on planning for the first day of school! … and no, it’s not serve chocolate chip cookies… read on 😉

You may be searching pinterest for the best “first day of school ideas” and while yes, I agree that those interactive scavenger hunts, search the room, interview your classmate, and other adorable and engaging social skill based activities are fun as heck – they aren’t fun as heck for our kids. Social skills are work for many of our kiddos. Actually – scratch that – social skills are HARD work for many of our kiddos. So while you might think they will love finding out how many people went on vacation over summer break that activity is literally hell on wheels for our guys. Unstructured play time and group activities on top of a stressful major change in schedule (showing up at school on day 1) is not going to go well.

I like to equate showing up in a classroom as traveling to a foreign country. Our students don’t know the language, they don’t know the social norms, and they are just not picking up that everyone is driving on the opposite side of the road. Have you ever traveled aboard and found yourself eating at McDonalds or ordering a super non-native cheeseburger. It’s not that your not adventurous or willing to try new things but that little taste of home makes you instantly feel better, more comfortable, and lessen your anxiety. So make your students as comfortable as possible – especially if they are brand new to you or brand new to the school. Reach out to the parents before and make sure to have some of their favorite foods, toys, or activities prepped. Let them bring in their personal iPad or a few favorite toys. Help them feel at home!

All of those beautiful schedules and visuals that you spent all summer slaving over – start teaching those bad boys right away. Jump right in. Those aren’t optional. They are here to help and the sooner your students learn how to use the visuals and schedules – the sooner they will be helpful. Remember, schedules and visuals aren’t magic pills that students naturally know how to use. We have to teach them how to utilize these strategies. So get started! 🙂

So let’s say you first day came and went and it was literally the worst. And not like “the worst” like people say when the barista gets your starbucks order wrong. Like actually written in your diary as the worst day of your life. You questioned your job choice, life choice, forgot your name, and walked to your car after work in a silent sob. My dear friend, I feel you. I promise it will get better. If you work at it, stay consistent with the strategies we talked about all summer, and learn from those bad days – it will get better. A bad first day does not mean you are a bad teacher. It does not mean you will have a bad year. You have nowhere to go but up! 🙂

So let me share some true life tales from the frontline. My first year teaching I was pretty much deer-in-headlights terrified. My first day came and went and I wasn’t one of those nightmares of worst first day ever. It was actually really good. It was actually great. I felt like god’s gift to special ed teachers as I strutted to my car after work. “Burnout?” I thought. “Who could possibly get sick of this? This job is amazing.”  I’m shaking my heard at my young naive self. That calm first day is known as a honeymoon period. And that honeymoon period ended approximately 90 seconds into day 2. I left the 2nd day of my teaching career with actual shit on my face and no more tears left to cry. It got better. It got way better. But my cocky first day bliss made hitting the pavement on day 2 way worse. So even if things are smooth sailing, keep using your visuals, teaching routines, and keep your emotional guard up.

Above absolutely everything – your goal is make your classroom and you reinforcing to your student. You are a chocolate chip cookie. Because, really, who doesn’t like a chocolate chip cookie? Strive to make your class a place your student wants to be. Strive to make your praise something your student wants to get. Adding structure, familiar items, routines etc. will help you get to chocolate chip cookie status.

Sasha Long
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