1. Be the early-bird.
*The Copy Machine: You thought it'd be easy to make a quick copy of that last minute activity you created the night before? Well have fun waiting behind 20 other teachers doing the exact same thing. You want to be first so you can get in and out of that copy room as quickly as possible before the crowd comes and the machine jams or runs out of ink, which it most assuredly will do.
*Set-Up: Do you have pencils? Are they sharpened? Are they on the students' desks? Are papers passed out? Do you have markers for labeling supplies? Is the smart-board working? Did you sign in? Did you go to the bathroom? You'll have to conquer these plus the other million tasks that pop up the morning of, and hopefully you've gotten there early enough to tackle them all.
*Run-Through: Stand in front of your classroom and practice what you're going to say. Out loud. I'm serious. I know this sounds silly, but I can't tell you how much it calms the nerves before you have to do it in front of real students. Even if it's just your greeting or introduction, it'll help you feel more prepared and prevent you from getting tongue tied during the real deal. Getting to school early before anyone else is in the building makes this much less awkward. Trust me.
2. Have an EASY start-up activity.
You're going to have a seemingly endless stream of people filtering in and out of your room for the first half-hour or so. This means you'll have to endure 25 introductions as you meet the tiny humans who you'll spend the next 10 months with and their owners. Not to mention the giant bags of (unlabeled) school supplies that accompany them and that need to find a home in the classroom. Not to worry! Having an easy start up activity that requires little to no instruction is the perfect way to entertain the students who have already come in while getting the rest of them in the door. Crowd favorites include coloring sheets and word searches. Have your weapon of choice printed and already on each student's desk as they walk in. Not only will it keep them busy, it will get them used to getting right to work when they enter the classroom. A win-win!
3. Make a PowerPoint.
Sure there are those teachers who can remember the 7,193 things they need to explain on the first day in the exact order they planned, but this lady is not one of them. When that big brown door closes and it's just you and 25 sets of judging eyes it's easy to have a mini-panic attack and start explaining your pencil routine before you've even said your name. Have no fear, PowerPoint is here! Make a simple presentation to guide you through the day and keep you from getting off track. Each slide can be super basic-even just pictures can help you remember your next move.
Bonus: Creating a PowerPoint also provides visuals to keep students engaged and makes you look uber prepared! Did someone say teacher of the year?? ;)
4. Overplan, and then plan some more.
This is a big one. There's nothing worse than a group of students flying through an activity that should have taken an hour in 15 minutes. With no back-up plan that leaves you with 45 painfully long minutes of dead air that you're expected to fill. What do you do in times like this? You haven't even passed out books yet so "reading silently" isn't an option. Unless you've choreographed a jazzy tap routine to fill dull moments like this, you are out of luck. That's why it's always important to have at least 4 extra activities that you can whip out at a moments notice when you hear the dreaded "I'm done" or it's cousin "What do I do now?" For the first day these don't have to be rigorous activities. Stick with your basic color-by-numbers and get-to-know-me activities. An "All About Me Book" is always a crowd pleaser, and gives you the option of having each student share their book if time is really dragging.
Right before the ring of that first daunting bell, take a moment to yourself for a few deep breaths. You've got this. You've planned as much as you can for the expected, and are as prepared as you can be for the unexpected. It's time to let go and let God. Remember, those kiddos are just as nervous as you. They aren't going to notice if you veer away from your lesson plan or fumble on a few words. To them, you're a superhero. You're going to be their teacher, mentor, counselor, nurse, and friend. You get to be one of the most influential people in their lives for just one short year, and it all starts today. Enjoy it.