3 Back-to-School Tips for Administrators and Educators
With students rushing to buy supplies, pencil sharpeners whirling, and schedules being set, back-to-school season is in full force. While much commercial marketing is geared toward students and parents, the start of a new school year is an important time for teachers and administrators as well.
A new year is an opportunity for a fresh start—it is the perfect time to reflect on years prior, and to set new goals for the incoming class. As educators and administrators, we work hard to make sure that the first day of school sets the tone for the rest of the year, and that we set students up for success from the very beginning. To truly build a strong foundation for our students, it is important that we consider what we as staff need to do to prepare ourselves as well. Here is a roundup of top back-to-school tips for administrators and teachers, straight from the source.
Start the year off right: Tips for school administrators
- Develop and implement a strong communication strategy, starting with back-to-school messaging
Building a rapport with parents and community starts with clear, consistent communication about what is happening in the school or district, how families and individuals can get involved, and all the wonderful things happening inside the walls of the school. Baltimore County Public Schools' Chief Communications Officer Mychael Dickerson recommends promoting student achievement and positive stories right from the start, utilizing communications personnel or staff/students who are social media-savvy.
- Inspire, encourage, and motivate teachers the right way
Amid all the excitement of the back-to-school season, many educators feel less than enthusiastic about the plethora of lengthy staff meetings discussing site changes, assessment measures, and new initiatives. While these details are extremely important, conversations and meetings at the start of the year can set the tone for future staff buy-in on key issues. Award-winning teacher, author, and speaker Pernille Ripp offers some great tips on how to communicate important back-to-school topics to teachers in a motivating manner. She advocates for using video and email where possible, giving the "why" behind changes, and allowing time to process new information (to name just three recommendations). A strong collaborative team is essential to a successful school year, and good communication is the way to develop such a team.
- Find (and stick to) an organizational system that works
An administrator’s job is both time-consuming and time-sensitive, and it comes with a mountain of paperwork and tasks to be completed. Establishing a time management and organizational system at the start of the year is necessary to keep on top of what needs to be done, and to ensure priorities are not lost in the clutter. Justin Baeder, principal at Olympic View Elementary in the Seattle Public Schools system, acknowledged the need to "make space, both physically and mentally, for doing the work of leadership." He suggested using a filing system that includes a "tickler file" for time-sensitive documents, as well as utilizing electronic to-do lists and agendas for ideas, reminders, and important notes.
Preparing for a great new year: Tips for teachers
Every educator has their own unique way to prepare for the year ahead, but for new teachers or those in need of some inspiration, luckily educators are a collaborative group willing to share their secrets. Here are a few things to try and advice to keep in mind for a stress-free and productive back-to-school experience.
- Spend time investing in family engagement right from the start
Sending home letters or surveys, emailing parents, or calling with positive remarks (before any reason materializes to call for other purposes) are all good ways to kick off family engagement on the right foot. Early family engagement is key to helping parents understand how the classroom works and how they can best support their student in school.
- Carve out time for self-care, and make this part of your regular routine
According to Carrie Gaffney of Teaching Tolerance, "students deserve a refreshed collaborator every day." With this in mind, personal care should be a priority. As the school year picks up, time to exercise, plan proper meals, or engage in personal hobbies will seem to disappear if not established early on.
- Understand tax deductions and incentives for teachers (and save those receipts)
It is not at all uncommon to see teachers or other education professionals spending their own money on classroom supplies. Teachers can receive a tax deduction of up to $250 for miscellaneous items purchased for their classrooms, and they may be able to itemize other purchases or donations as well. Get familiar with types of credit such as tuition reimbursement and incentives, and help your dollars stretch further while you make a difference.
Just as students need to study for tests, educators and administrators need to be diligent in preparing for a new school year. By taking the time to establish systems and schedules, find ways to carve out time for personal care, and identify means of communicating and connecting with key players, the start of the year can be the start of something truly great.
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