First day of school to do list

This first day of school to do list is not about the pedagogy of the first day. It is a list of what you need to do to get yourself through those eight hours (really, more because we’ll start by talking about what you need to do before you leave home) and ready for day two.


Before leaving home:

Didn’t sleep last night? You’re not alone. Most new teachers are very nervous on the day before their very first day of school as a teacher. Please, eat a good breakfast. You are going to be “on” all day and you’ll likely have very little time to shove lunch in your face.

Pack your lunch. In most cases, school lunches, even for teachers, are not appetizing. Bring something that is easy to eat like a sandwich. I avoid bringing anything that needs microwaving because, if you have a thirty minute lunch, by the time you go get your lunch from the refrigerator (which will likely be located in your department office), microwave it, and eat it, you won’t even have time to go to the bathroom before the kids are streaming down the hall to come back to class.

What should you wear?

Did you already go out and purchase some new “teacher clothes” or are you ready to go from what you wore during your student teaching? My cooperating instructor during my student teaching actually pulled me aside one day and told me I looked too much like the kids. I needed to go shopping and get some more professional clothes. Not that what I was wearing was inappropriate, just that at twenty-three years old I looked very young and I needed to up my professional ante to differentiate myself from the kids.

Wear something professional, but comfortable, and don’t try too hard. Don’t wear a suit on the first day of school. Four-inch heels are definitely a bad idea. Some schools will provide you with a school t-shirt that all the teachers wear on the first day. I love that. Decision made for you!

Get to school early. You will have last minute prep to do and don’t forget to check your box in the main office and hit the restroom before getting started in your classroom.

As your students walk in:

Greet students warmly as they enter the room. The whole concept of don’t smile until Christmas is antiquated. Let them know how to find their seats. Are their names on the desks? Is the seating chart displayed by the projector? Check out this post for more info on seating (number three on the list). Have the name of the class (i.e. Algebra 1) visible on the board or projector. It will help them confirm that they are in the right place. This is super important for freshmen who will likely be nervous and disoriented by the new building.

Here is a dirty little secret that is going to change your year! You’re sizing them up as they walk in, right? You can’t help yourself. It is a natural human tendency. Use that to your advantage. Who is going to give you trouble? You can probably tell before they even make it to your classroom. They’re the one you see/hear coming down the hall and you’re inwardly hoping they turn into someone else’s room, but they don’t. Here’s the secret: pick out one or two of those students who you can tell might give you trouble and compliment them as they walk in the room. Bam, you have them now! You’d be amazed what a little complement will do. Something as simple as “I like your shirt,” or “I love your hair” will get you a long way.

Before you leave school for the day:

You will likely be exhausted at the end of your first day, but take a moment to look back at your plan for the day and make a note about what worked and what didn’t. The next couple of days will be a blur and you will thank yourself next year when you have notes reminding you what to keep and what to change.

Be sure that your plans and materials are ready for tomorrow.

When you get home:

Give yourself a pat on the back. Maybe it was a great day! Maybe it was a hard day. Either way, you survived your first day of teaching and you never have to do a first day again. Celebrate by rewarding yourself with a milkshake or a glass of wine (whatever your inclination might be).

If you liked the first day of school checklist, check out these posts which will likely be helpful to you as well:

7 Morning routine MUSTS for new teachers

Pre-service week checklist

13 Must do Tasks during Pre-service Week

Planning for the first day of school

Setting up classroom expectations/”rules”

Last minute activities to fill those awkward moments

Want more? Purchase the Wannabe Teacher’s Guidefor more resources.

If you found this first day of school to do list helpful, make sure to pinpost, and tweet to share it with other new teachers who might also benefit from it!

A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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1 Response

  1. Anthony says:

    This is an excellent review of all of their things nobody thinks about on the first day. Great list!

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