Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to School Survival Tips for the Unprepared Teacher

This fall I'm teaching at a new school. I will still be teaching 3-5 year olds, but everything else will be different. What is especially different about this year is that I start teaching on Monday, today is Saturday, and I am not prepared! In the nine years that I have been teaching I have never felt more unprepared for the first day of school than I do right now. My classroom is set up, I have activities and lesson plans for the week prepared, posters hung up and and yet, I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Maybe its new school jitters, maybe its all in my head or maybe I really am forgetting something so huge that I'm going to ruin the lives of my new students. (Hey, I've never claimed to not have a flare for the dramatic!)  While I'm sure that there is probably a poster or picture that I forgot to hang up or some other small thing that I have forgotten, I'm also pretty sure that I will survive and so will my students. Here are a few tips that might help you survive too.

Back to School Survival tips for the Unprepared Teacher...

  1. Coffee!  Since bringing alcohol into the classroom is generally frowned upon (oh, come on, like you have never been tempted.) I suggest bringing coffee and lots of it for that first day. If you are not a coffee drinker, bring lots of whatever is you do drink. That familiarity of a guilty pleasure, will aid you in forgetting that you are unprepared for the day. It will also keep you sane when the kids are in their back to school, drive you nuts, hyper mode.  Never underestimate the comfort of a guilty pleasure.
  2. Look Cute!  Nothing says "I'm prepared for the first day of school" like a well dressed teacher. If you look like you have it all together, parents and students and co-workers will believe that you do have all together and that you are rock star teacher! (All teachers are rock stars in my book, whether prepared or not, just FYI.) So, rock your best teaching outfit, even if there's a chance it will get paint, dirt, snot, or coffee on it. I promise the confidence you will feel will be more than worth the extra cost of stain remover.
  3. Back-up Plan!  No matter what I have written down on my weekly lesson plans, on the bottom of the page, in the notes section I always write down a back up plan or activity. These are the activities you pull out when nothing on your daily lesson plan is of interest to the children. Here are a couple of my staple back-up activities: shaving cream, floor painting, washing dishes, and band-aids.  I will write a post based on these activities in the near future,  but for now they are only serving to prove my point that every successful teacher, even if he or she is unprepared should always have a back-up plan that they can use in case of emergency. In a way, having a back-up plan is being prepared, hence making you less unprepared. (See how I did that? You feel prepared now, don't you?)
  4. Lie!  Normally, I'm all about the truth. I'm actually kind of a stickler about it in both my personal and professional life, however, there is one time where I condone lying, in fact I even encourage it in this certain situation. Every teacher at the beginning of the school year is asked the most annoying question in the world... "Are you ready for the first day of school?" When someone asks you this, you must lie! No one wants to hear a surgeon who is about to perform a complicated, life-saving surgery say they are not ready for the surgery, do they? Of course not! They also do not want to hear that a person who shapes young minds is unprepared for the first day of school. So when in this situation,  I say lie! Lie your butt off! Tell them you have been prepared for the past week and that you couldn't be more excited for the first day of school. That's what they want to hear anyway. Plus, if you say it, you might actually believe it, and then again feel better prepared for the first day of school.  **Disclaimer: Answer honestly when a fellow teacher asks you this question. They will know you're full of crap if you try to lie. Remember, they're probably unprepared as well and we teachers are in this together. 
  5. Consider the students!  When all else fails to make you feel better prepared for the first day of school, remember why you signed up for this underpaid, under-appreciated, stress induced career! Who the hell cares if you forgot to put up a poster, or if your classroom is in shambles, or if you really are unprepared. The only thing that matters is that you are teacher! You signed up for this job because you love kids and want to make a difference in their lives. (If this not true in your case, then quit your job and let the people who care about kids do it!) So spend the first day or first week getting to know your students. Build relationships with them. Set the foundation to make a positive difference in their lives. Set them up for a successful school year and ultimately a successful life. 
I truly believe the most prepared teacher is a committed teacher. Students are not going to remember what a teacher wore or how the classroom was set up, the only thing students will remember is how the teacher made them feel when they entered the classroom.

Happy first day of school, peeps! You're a rock star!! xo

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