Back to School Advice From a Veteran Teacher

By Laura Robb on September 3, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Before and between required meetings the district and principal schedules, we’re in our classrooms preparing for the day students arrive.  Even those of us teaching for years are brimming with the excitement of a new school year, the intoxicating smell of new books, and the anticipation of starting over with new students.

This year, most of us will feel the pressure of teaching to and meeting the Common Core State Standards and the end-of-year testing our students will take. However, it’s important to maintain balance in our personal and teaching lives.

Balance in our personal lives means we set aside time to do what we value and love: hike, garden, listen to music, read, play basketball, try new recipes, and so on. Last year, a principal called me and asked me to work with a first year teacher who arrived at school at 7:30 AM and left every day around 7:00 PM.  Fast becoming burned out, this young teacher struggled with managing time and over preparation of lessons.  Teary and frustrated during our first meeting, she gradually learned to trust her detailed, weekly plans and her third grade students. Once she accepted that it was impossible to plan for every situation that might arise during the day, she relaxed and began leaving her classroom around 5:00 PM each day.  Around January, she told me: “You know, I’ve begun to enjoy teaching. When I do something for myself like read or hike, I share it with my students. They love hearing my stories as much as I adore hearing theirs.”

In addition to balance in our personal lives, it’s crucial to set aside time during the first two weeks of school to get to know students. Doing this focuses you on the unique experiences and learning attitudes each student brings to the class and arms you with valuable data that supports scaffolding and reaching each learner. Resist the temptation to plunge into teaching in order to “cover” everything and start the pacing guide. Instead, have students complete interest inventories and respond to questions that provide insights into their reading and writing lives. You’ll find getting-to-know you activities in the second edition of my book Teaching Reading in Middle School, Scholastic, 2010.

You can also sign up for my newsletters for the upcoming school year by going to my website:   My newsletters from past years have been archived and you can easily access them on my website.

Enjoy those first weeks of school!


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