In a previous life, this used to be my busiest time of year. I could usually be found in my classroom prepping paperwork to go out to new students, writing study guides new curriculum, or mapping out my lessons for the entire school year. And while I generally enjoy being out of the game to do what I'm doing now, it's always this time of year I miss teaching the most.
I miss the smell of the school as the laminator works overtime and the copier overheats. I love the air conditioning that makes my room sub-zero (I'm cold blooded). I love turning on Focus on the Family's Chronicles of Narnia and listening through the whole series as I ready the room for the new little souls that will inhabit it all year. In short, I love back to school. I've loved back to school season since I was a little girl and all the way through my years of schooling (except for my brief time as a shoe salesman - people are mean when buying back to school shoes). I loved shopping for supplies and organizing everything for the first day of school (surprising, right?). Even though I wasn't the best student and had a very tumultuous relationship with school, there was something about a blank slate and the possibility for success each year that made the back to school season special to me.
But back to school has not been a time of year that I have participated in for many years now; as my kiddies are only in preschool and don't require much to get ready. Until now! This year has been a little different, as both of them will be entering into school a couple of days a week. I'm starting to love back to school for all the reasons I did before, and the possibility of getting a couple hours a week of sweet solitude.
But I digress.
To help all of us to get organized for this blessed time of year, I've created a little resource for you. So that you could be that mom (or teacher) that's so uber ready for the school year that other moms talk about you behind your back; but you don't care because you aren't sweating anything this year! You can download the list by clicking on the below image.
This beginning of the year TODO list will take you through all the things that HAVE to get done for you to own Back to School season.
First on the list is, always, paperwork. As I type this post, there is a stack of 13 pages of paperwork that need to be filled out for my kids returning to preschool. AND, I've already filled out the registration paperwork! I like to hook all of my paperwork to a clipboard so that it doesn't get lost. It doesn't leave the clipboard until it gets turned into the teacher on Meet the Teacher night. I personally use, and love, those padfolio clipboards that include a notebook. It makes it easy to keep all my important papers together, as well as relevant information and notes that are given during Meet the Teacher night and/or notes about things to ask and clarify with my kiddos teachers.
Next is teacher gifts. I know that not everyone does teacher gifts at the beginning of the year, but you should. Even if it is just a little card introducing your family and opening the pathways of communication, it matters. Take it from a former teacher, it's not about the gift. It's about knowing that our lines of communication are flowing and I'm getting to know your family. Like it or lump it, this will be the person your baby will spend the majority of their time with for the entire school year. You need to know that person and that person needs to know you. You are a team, working together to move your child into through this level of education (and it's not just book learning), get to know your teammates. This year, I have 8 teachers between my 2 kids. Throughout the year I'd love to give you some snapshots of what types of things I like to put together for my little team. You can join my Facebook page or my Instagram feed to see my ideas, and maybe I'll even help you out and give one away from time to time! Finally, in regards to teacher gifts, I am trying something this year called the "getting to know you" sheet; this will be the freebie for subscribers this month!
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The "getting to know you" sheet is basically a questionnaire for the teacher about all their favorite things! I like to have this information on hand in case my teachers need some small blessings throughout the school year like a Diet Coke, a Starbucks, or lunch from their favorite restaurant. Although, teachers may have to wait until I don't have 8 of them for that last one. :)
If gifts are simply out of your price range and, let's face it, cards aren't any more budget-friendly, let me help you out!! I've created a simple and stylish printable card for you to give to your teachers this year. Print this, and save the $5 you'd spend on a greeting card at the store or buy a Starbucks card for a teacher with your $5, or dang it, buy yourself a Starbucks! Download the card by clicking on the picture below.
The third is calendar fill in! This is my favorite because I LOVE calendars. If you don't have a whole family calendar hanging in your house somewhere, try THIS ONE from Amazon! I use a planner, a wall calendar, and iCal on my phone to keep everyone on the same page and everyone moving. That's why calendar fill-in is such an essential part of my back to school prep. Don't forget that while the school will put out a school calendar, sometimes teachers will put out their own calendars too! You don't want to miss some of the fun things teachers have planned like themed days, field trips, and show and tell days. Make sure that you write those down!! Don't be like me and miss sending in a stuffed animal on Teddy Bear Picnic day in preschool and have an utterly devastated 3-year-old on your hands.
Backpacks and Lunchboxes are next on the list, that's pretty self-explanatory. As well as buying supplies. Along with buying supplies for your students, don't forget to pick up a few things for the classroom while you are at it. Sometimes things like a pack of red pens for the teacher or a big box of pencils to share with the class is unbelievably helpful.
In between those previous two checklist items, there is a to do that says, "lunch packing spot." Now, this doesn't apply to you if your child is a buyer of school lunches. But in preschool, they don't offer that. So part of my school year prep is to make sure that all of our lunch items for school lunches are in an easily accessible spot so that whoever (David) is packing lunch for the kids has easy access to all the items they (David) would need.
The next two items are clothes and shoes and haircuts just to make sure that you are all looking fresh for the beginning of the year. My kids don't usually get new clothes until well into the fall because anymore, the season hasn't changed before the start of school. I do, however, like to get them one or two new items that get them excited about the first few days of school. There is just something about wearing a new shirt and having a fresh trim or haircut that gives kids that pop of confidence they need to walk into that classroom the first time. Preschoolers to high schoolers, this is a universal truth.
Paper storage is next on my list, and this is an important one! Wherever it is, whether it's a cork board or a refrigerator, and however old your kids are - make sure there is a place to display their work. Kids work hard in school and papers that take them time and effort should be celebrated. As a teacher, I have seen so many kids so so proud of math papers and social studies tests on which they have studied and worked hard to get C's and B's on; those need to be celebrated, and it matters to kids when you do. Furthermore, make yourself a designated spot that you put all school papers. Important papers need to be tacked up, so you don't miss them (ahem Teddy Bear Picnic), and you should have a safe place to keep everything on a 2-week rotation. In case you need to talk to a teacher about a paper, or a teacher counts something as missing, but it's not (Hey it happens! They are just people too!).
Next item to do is pack backpacks. This applies more to me than anyone because my kids are in preschool and require extra items like undies and such. But I would venture to guess that having an extra set of clothing for older kids might come in handy. Also, basic toiletry items for older kids might help too in case of emergency.
School schedule is next, and it is the most important piece of preparation at my house. Bed routines, morning routines, breakfast and nap schedules all have to be predetermined so that I might set myself up for success. Also, my kids, setting my kids up for success.
Establish a homework spot and fill it with any homework supplies that your kids might need. Buy a little carrying case like THIS ONE on Amazon and fill it with items such as crayons, markers, flash cards, that week's spelling words, calculators, maps, reference material, rulers, protractors, scratch paper, and whatever else your kids might need. I can't tell you how many kids didn't have homework done because it was supposed to be done in pencil and they forgot to take theirs home. Seriously, go try and find a pencil in your house right now.
Finally, after you've organized anything that you need for fall sports, it's on to prepping your signs for the first-day pictures. I found a SUPER sweet sign at the dollar spot at Target, here it is….
I know that I was long-winded in this post of mine, but I'm telling you what; there is a fine line between having a great first week back and playing catch up the whole year. Take it from a teacher who did these things and more (only slightly modified) in preparation for my school year. It doesn't have to be anything beautiful and picturesque. It merely needs to be practical, functional, and a little bit indestructible (if you live with a Ruby).
You know, nothing fancy.