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Are You Ready for the New School Year? Here’s How to Know! [episode 142]


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Overview of episode 142:

We’ve got one question: Are you ready for the school year to begin again? While most of you are happy it’s summer and not thinking about the start of school, some of you are chomping at the bit to get into your classroom and start preparing for the new school year. So, if you’re in the latter group, this episode is for you! In today’s episode, we’re creating a personal plan for back-to-school readiness with all you need to begin to feel ready for the start of a new year.

Getting back to school ready is more than just setting up desks and waiting for your students to arrive. If only it were that easy! But there’s actually some major thought and planning that goes into it. And because you know how much we love a list, we’re sharing five lists to help you answer the question: are you ready for the school year? Each list requires you to think about certain aspects of your classroom and even yourself before heading back to school. 

Our goal is to give you tools to maximize your time and energy so you can head back to school calmly and confidently. So whether you’re unsure whether you want to think about a new school year or can’t wait to jump right in, we’re here to ask you, are you ready for the school year?

Highlights from the episode:

[00:49] Today’s morning message: If you didn’t work in education, which career would you choose?

[05:46] How to get your classroom ready.

[07:42] Ways to organize your supplies.

[10:46] Procedures to think about.

[13:57] Ways to get your Welcome ready.

[16:23] Getting yourself ready

[17:30] Today’s teacher-approved tip for getting yourself something new to start the year.


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Read the transcript for episode 142, Are You Ready for the New School Year? Here’s How to Know!:

Emily  0:37

Hey, there, thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re talking about how to make your personal plan for back to school readiness, and sharing a tip for how to treat yourself.

Heidi  0:49

We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do that morning meeting in our classrooms. This week’s morning message is if you didn’t work in education, what career would you choose? Emily, what would you have gone into?

Emily  1:02

Well, I was really interested in graphic design in college and like that was the only thing I seriously considered switching to. And then in the end, I just switched from elementary ed to early childhood. But I think that was the right decision because now we do something where I get to do graphic design and education. So so true. All worked out perfectly. What would you have done Heidi?

Heidi  1:25

Graphic design is something that’s crossed my mind a lot over the years. And lately I’ve been really into occupational therapy. I think if I had known about that at the time, maybe I would have gone that route. So maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know.

Emily  1:41

Well, we got some fun responses from our community. Lisa said I would be a writer but what I like to write is nonfiction usually educational, so I guess that doesn’t really count. That was what I told her. It absolutely does. Carrie said working with penguins at a zoo. That’s very specific. Mel said teaching art. Sara said attorney, chef sonographer, or pharmacist.

Heidi  2:06

Oh wow. She’s got all her bases that have a back up plan, like when I was four wanted to be a mermaid princess and a cowgirl.

Emily  2:14

Melanie said I wanted to be a marine biologist. That’s cool. Bethany said younger me dreamt of being a fashion designer photographer or a radiologist. It’s a big pivot. Some more practical than others. Lauren said X ray tech, Leslie said FBI detective, Kristen said flight attendant or dental assistant.

Heidi  2:36

Kristen really must have a lot of patients if her top two choices are teaching flight attendant or dental assistant.

Emily  2:43

I know. And Debbie said something in the music industry go Debbie. Yeah. We’d love to have you join the conversation over in our teacher approved Facebook group.

Heidi  2:52

There is so much to keep track of as a teacher.

Emily  2:56

Yeah. And that’s never more true than at the start of a new school year.

Heidi  3:00

With so much to do, it can be hard to know if you’re actually ready to go because I can guarantee with certainty we could take this to Vegas, when the bell rings on that first day, your to do list will still be cluttered with unfinished tasks.

Emily  3:16

So it’s probably important to make sure the tasks we’re abandoning aren’t the absolutely urgent ones. And the good news is that we’ve narrowed down the list to the six things you absolutely need to have ready before school starts.

Heidi  3:30

Well, six things doesn’t seem too bad. We can manage that. Right?

Emily  3:34

So here’s our list of six. You need to have your room, your supplies, your procedures, your welcome, your plans, and yourself ready to go.

Heidi  3:43

Oh, easy peasy. Nothing to it.

Emily  3:46

If only it were as simple as saying check, did that single task and now my room is ready.

Heidi  3:52

Oh, if only. Unfortunately, as you know, there are dozens of small tasks that go into that one big task. And if you are not ready to hear about work and are in the blissful denial stage of summer break, feel free to skip ahead because we’re going to get deep into the details. You can save this episode and come back to it in a few weeks.

Emily  4:15

Yeah you should be ready for this about the time you reach the bargaining stage of summer break.

Heidi  4:22

And if you’re not sure what we’re talking about, go back to Episode 134. Where you can hear all about the 10 stages of summer break.

Heidi  4:29

Hopefully and I literally just crossed my fingers although, you can’t see it. You’ve still got weeks of lounging around time ahead of you. But if you’re feeling a little bit of that, let’s get some stuff down energy. Stick around because we have got lots to share.

Emily  4:44

Our goal with talking about this isn’t to stress you out, I promise. Our goal is to give you tools to maximize your time and energy so you can head back to school calmly and confidently. If this starts to feel overwhelming, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that, as long as the desks are set up before the kids arrive, you can figure out the rest. And

Heidi  5:05

And of course, we have a resource to help you with that figuring out. We can’t get enough of Google Sheets lists, and we have got some more for you. These are our ready for school checklists. We have a page for each of our six areas of readiness, plus a bonus seventh list that we’ll talk about later.

Emily  5:24

Ooh, mysterious.

Heidi  5:27

Each of these lists is totally editable. So you can add your own details and craft your personal readiness plan. You can get this at And just a little tip to jump on this now because in a few weeks, this might not be a freebie anymore.

Emily  5:46

Okay, so let’s dive into our first list getting the classroom ready. Like we mentioned earlier, as long as the desks are arranged, you can figure out the rest. So that might be your first task. If you want more guidance with that, check out Episode 83, where we share eight questions to help guide your classroom setup.

Heidi  6:03

Next you might want to get the class library in shape. In Episode 137, we pointed out that getting a jump on the class library is a great way to tame a lot of clutter in a hurry.

Emily  6:15

Once your desks and your library are arranged just set up the rest of the classroom furniture and you’re practically ready to go.

Heidi  6:21

Well, at least you’ll feel ready to go if the space around you is prepared. Having your physical space set up will go a long way toward attaining your time anxiety. If you want to put up any bulletin boards or displays getting those done would help a lot too.

Emily  6:36

But don’t feel like you need to have a lot of stuff on your walls. Lots of teachers like to leave the walls blank and have the students contribute to what’s displayed.

Heidi  6:43

You might even want to put up a sign that says awesome student work coming soon so that if any of the parents.

Emily  6:49

Or your administration?

Heidi  6:52

Yeah, so no one thinks that you just forgot to put up your bulletin boards.

Emily  6:56

If you had last year students make looking back pictures like we’ve talked about in the past. Don’t forget to put them up now. Hopefully, if you made them at the end of the year, you were able to leave them up over the summer. And now you can just change out the title to say looking ahead instead of looking back.

Heidi  7:11

And if you didn’t have your students make looking back pictures, send yourself an email right now and schedule it to send in May so that you’ll remember to do this next year. We’ve got a whole set of materials to help your class do a meaningful end of your activity that sets you up for the new school year. And we will link to that in our show notes.

Emily  7:30

Okay, our furniture is set up, our walls are decorated, we’ll slap a few labels on things, tidy some clutter, and our room will be ready to go. What’s next in our readiness plan?

Heidi  7:42

Well next it is time to get our supplies ready. There are three tiers of school supplies, there are the always out and ready to go supplies. So that would be your pencils, paper crayons, anything else that is readily available to students.

Emily  7:57

Then there are the students need to be able to access these often supplies. These might be whiteboards and markers, scissors or glue. And last we have the we don’t use these often supplies that’s your calculators or rulers might fall into this category. Also special art supplies, post it notes or anything else that you need on hand, but only get out occasionally.

Heidi  8:20

Considering these three tiers is important because it determines how you organize your materials. Things the students use frequently need to be readily accessible, you might keep those supplies in a tote at each table.

Emily  8:33

My students had plastic pencil boxes with crayons, pencils, scissors, and glue sticks that they kept on their desks because those were the supplies we used every day.

Heidi  8:42

The able to access often supplies might be the ones you use daily, but don’t want stored in students desk because there’s maybe a chance that there’ll be misused. I know none of your students would ever dare, but some kids would. And I know some teachers give each student like a dry erase marker. But I didn’t do that because I was worried about those getting ruined.

Emily  9:03

And I was okay with my students having scissors and glue at their desks. But that might not work. In some classrooms, every teacher’s risk tolerance is going to be different. But the thing to keep in mind with these able to access often supplies is that frequent access means students need easy access.

Heidi  9:21

So for example, I kept my whiteboards, markers and erasers on a low shelf all next to each other, so students could grab them when it was time to use them. But I found that having all three items in one place created a huge traffic jam. So rather than having whiteboards apply spread around my room, I changed how we access them.

Heidi  9:41

Instead of sending individual students to get their materials. I had someone from each table, get the markers someone from each table get the whiteboards and then sent someone else to get the erasers and that really did cut down with the traffic jams.

Emily  9:52

As for you’re not used often supplies the important thing to consider is that your students can get them when they need them. And that might mean you take the posted notes out of your desk or the rulers out of the cupboard, and set them on the counter until the lesson is over. Or you have students store materials for a few days and then collect them once the unit is over.

Heidi  10:12

Also, keep in mind how you want to handle your digital school supplies. Not just how you’ll manage the devices and other electronics, but have a plan for managing student passwords and login details. We want students to be able to access what they need when they need to, even with our digital materials.

Emily  10:30

If your system of supply management has some friction, we have a set of guiding questions that can help you troubleshoot your systems. There are dozens of prompts to help you set up, streamline and troubleshoot all of your procedures. And you can find a link to that in our show notes.

Heidi  10:46

With your classroom nice and neat and your supplies freshly organized, it is time to start thinking about how we’re going to keep everything that way. So let’s get our procedures ready.

Emily  10:57

You knew we’d end up at procedures eventually. When it comes to procedures, the first step is knowing the school policies. There’s no sense in crafting an epic lunchtime procedure if it won’t let your kids function in your school’s lunchroom.

Heidi  11:11

Once you know the school’s policies, you need to figure out which procedures you need for your classroom. And do we have a tool to help you with that?

Emily  11:19

Of course we do. We have a very robust procedures and routines checklist that covers everything you need to consider at the start of the year. For each procedure, you decide whether you need to introduce it with a full lesson or if a quick discussion is enough.

Heidi  11:35

And like Emily mentioned, there are a lot of procedures on this list. Some of them might seem unimportant. For example, it’s easy to think that having a plan for something simple like fixing a jammed paper towel dispenser doesn’t matter. But the truth is whether or not you stopped for a minute to think, what am I going to do when the paper towel dispenser jams, or you just react in the moment, you still have to solve that problem.

Emily  12:02

Right. Maybe it’s something you can fix yourself or maybe you need to get the key from the custodian. It’s a minor hassle, but a day of teaching is already full of unpredictable minor hassles. Let’s be proactive about the ones we know are coming and not have to figure it out when we’ve got a half dozen kids with wet hands clustered around us.

Heidi  12:22

Very clear memories of that happening. We will link to our procedure and routines checklists in the show notes so you can start planning for those hassles. That minor ones and the major ones right now. And then once you know which procedures you need to teach, you need to decide how to teach them.

Emily  12:40

Our favorite way to teach procedures is to use the tell try tally talk method. You explain the procedure, the kids try it out, you rate how they did and then you have a class discussion about what to do going forward. Those four steps are a real lifesaver.

Heidi  12:57

We have some blank tell, try tally talk slides that you can edit with your own procedure steps and use to teach your procedures so that they really stick. We talk about this frequently. But if you are new to tell try tally talk, go back to Episode 75 for a deeper look.

Emily  13:14

In that same episode, we also talk about classroom expectations. Those are similar to procedures but where procedures have clear steps to follow expectations are more about mindset.

Heidi  13:26

Right. Instead of having different procedures for every circumstance, when you might need to use glue, you can have a list of expectations instead. You’re only going to glue paper, we make sure the lid is on tight. You know all that fun stuff that goes into managing kids and glue.

Heidi  13:43

And when it comes to teaching expectations, we love using the Guided Discovery method. And of course, we have a whole system for that as well. We’ll link to that in the show notes too.

Emily  13:53

The show notes are going to have some gold in there this time.

Emily  13:57

Okay, we’ve set up our room, organized our supplies, figured out our procedures. Now it’s time to get our welcome ready. Your welcome has three parts. First, it’s what you’ll do to prepare for the students in your class. Second, it’s what you’ll do to inform parents about your class. And third is what you’ll do to help students settle into class on that first day.

Heidi  14:18

Preparing for your students means knowing any accommodations, posting the names on the door so students know they’re in the right place, learning how to pronounce those names, and planning for ways to invite your students into their new class community.

Emily  14:32

Informing parents means planning and prepping for your open house, or meet the teacher night and having a plan for continuing communication all year long.

Heidi  14:41

And helping students settle into class it’s going to take some thought. We love to use pattern blocks for the very first activity on the first day of school. You can hear all of our reasoning behind it in episode 78. But whatever you choose to start the first day, the biggest recommendation we can give is to keep it low key so that you are not adding to anyone’s anxiety.

Emily  15:05

We’ve got the first few minutes of the first day planned, what are we doing the rest of the day?

Heidi  15:12

So our focus on the first day is to keep everyone safe, fed, happy, and sent home the right way.

Emily  15:21

Those definitely are the most important tasks, but unfortunately, they won’t fill six hours. What are we going to do with the rest of the time?

Heidi  15:29

That first day we are doing a lot of affirming and training. That means helping kids settle into the class and learning how to function there.

Emily  15:38

Affirming and training are the first two of our ATTABOY goals. ATTABOY stands for affirming, training, teaching and assessing at the beginning of the year. We use these four goals to plan meaningful activities for the first week of school.

Heidi  15:52

We have got several podcast episodes that go into more depth with that. If you’ve been around a while you are well versed in the ATTABOY goals. But go back to Episode 73 and 77 if you want more details.

Emily  16:04

And make sure you’re subscribed to this podcast in the upcoming weeks, we’re going to be talking in depth about how to plan a meaningful first day.

Heidi  16:12

Okay, the classroom is ready supplies are ready. Our procedures are ready. Our welcome is ready. Our first day is ready. But that’s only five lists. What is the sixth readiness list, Emily?

Emily  16:23

We can’t forget to get ourselves ready. Of course, we need to get the teacher ready. Back to school season is so demanding, it’s easy to forget that we need some attention too.

Heidi  16:33

One way to help yourself get ready is to make some decisions now. So your future self does not have to worry about them later. Consider planning your first week of lunches and your first week of outfits.

Emily  16:45

Do what you can to make that transition back to teach your mode a little easier. Stock up on groceries, talk or sing more often to get your voice ready. Stash some cough drops in your desk and maybe start endurance training your bladder. We all know what a rough transition that one is.

Heidi  17:02

So rough. So there are the six lists for your personal back to school readiness plan.

Emily  17:08

Wait, didn’t you say there was a seventh list?

Heidi  17:12

Yes, but it’s a surprise. Oh, if you want to know about that list, you’re going to have to listen to Thursday’s episode.

Emily  17:20

Oh, we got to keep everyone on their toes around here.

Heidi  17:23

We would love to hear how you’re getting ready for back to school. Come join the conversation in our teacher approved Facebook group.

Emily  17:31

Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip each week we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher approved tip is get yourself something new to start the year.

Heidi  17:44

A central integral important part of your teacher readiness plan is the fact that you deserve to have something special to start the year with. Maybe you get a new lunch bag or a new water bottle. Or maybe you get a new first day of school outfit.

Emily  17:59

If a whole outfit isn’t in the budget, maybe you could get some new earrings instead or another fun accessory.

Heidi  18:05

Oh maybe like a giant Apple brooch that has your name on it.

Emily  18:11

Not no not get something you actually want to wear. And maybe some comfy shoes your feet will thank you after that first day.

Heidi  18:22

To wrap up the show we are sharing what we’re giving extra credit to this week. Emily, what gets your extra credit?

Emily  18:27

I’m giving extra credit to the book The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center. If you’d like a light but engaging rom com book with good banter, Katherine Center has several you’ll love She’s so good. I love her.

Emily  18:41

This one is about aspiring screenwriter Emma, who moves to LA for six weeks to help her screenwriting hero Charlie rewrite his rom com script. But the script is terrible. He doesn’t want her there. And worst of all, he doesn’t even believe in love. No, I know. But don’t worry, Emma is not going down without a fight. So it’s very fun. It’s perfect summer read a love.

Heidi  19:06

I’m gonna have to check that one out.

Emily  19:07

What are you giving extra credit to Heidi?

Heidi  19:09

Well, my extra credit is also book related, but maybe just tangentially. I’m giving extra credit to Pie Lady Books on Instagram. So she’s a baker who makes incredible pie crusts inspired by book covers. They really are absolutely works of art and it’s just so incredible to watch her work because she posts videos.

Heidi  19:31

That woman has patience that I will never have. And plus her page is a great place to find book suggestions. I’m always seeing things that I’m not seeing in other places so it’s a fun place all around.

Emily  19:42

Wow people are so creative and talented.

Heidi  19:44

They really are.

Heidi  19:47

That is it for today’s episode. Okay, first of all, make sure you check the show notes because we’ve got links to all the things there. And don’t forget to head to to get the back to school readiness lists. Plus, hey, treat yourself to something new to start the school year with. We are telling you that it is very important that you do this.

Emily  20:09

Yes, do it.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.

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