Back to School Survival Tips for Special Educators

The first few days (or weeks) of school can feel like pure chaos! Teacher tired is so real! The beginning of the school year is so unpredictable. The only thing you can count on is that you can't count on anything.

You may think you are prepared and then a new student moves in, or you end up managing a severe behavior issue, or get called in to assist with another student, etc., etc., etc. One little bump can throw everything off, and the next thing you know, you're sitting at your desk at the end of the day crying. I may know this from personal experience. 

But fear not! I am here to help with a few suggestions for surviving those first few weeks of the school year.

back to school survival for special educators bulletin board

Have a backup plan. 

Or two. I like to have a ton of extra activities prepped and ready to use incase something doesn't go as planned.

Task cards and center activities are my go to when things get crazy in my classroom, which is bound to happen the first few weeks of school. I especially love using these differentiated counting task cards or differentiated functional task cards (grab this free set!) because I can use them with all of my students, at their level. They are easy to use and my paras can assist students if I am dealing with a behavior issue or having a conversation with another teacher or parent. I put a bin out on my file cabinet with activities and switch them out as we use them.

I also love puzzles and games for the first few weeks of school! There's no prep required for you, and students love them, too!

Build relationships & rapport first. 

I love the quote, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." 

During the first few weeks of school, spend the time to build positive relationships with each of your students. Use the honeymoon period to your advantage! That way, when behavior issues do arise, you've already established yourself as a reinforcer. 

Get to know your students and what they like and don't like. Also, help your paras do this as well. It's just as important that they have relationships with the students!

Teach and practice routines and procedures. 

And then practice some more! 

If you spend the time from day one explicitly teaching your expectations, you will save yourself from the frustration of a poorly run classroom! Students need to know what to do, when to do it, and how. Teach each routine, practice it, and then practice it again. 

I like to have my students pretend to be the teacher- especially when we are practicing noise levels. They love to be in front of the class and it's a great way to check their understanding of the routine or procedure. I also teach a quiet signal in my classroom. It's been a lifesaver! I have multiple design options in my store, or you can try out a free set in the resource library. I also love doing this classroom rule sort!
give me five quiet signal poster

Find a support person. 

The first few weeks are hard. Teaching is hard. Find a teacher friend to vent and problem solve with. For me, it's helpful to have someone else who understands what teaching is really like and who can help give you ideas if you're struggling!

Take care of yourself.

Self-care is essential. You can't take care of others unless you take care of yourself first. Take a bubble bath, watch a favorite show on Netflix, spend time with your family, do what you need to do, and don't feel guilty. Need some self-care ideas? Check out this post from Sarah, The Designer Teacher.

Hang in there and remember that it gets easier! And let me know- what do you do to survive the first few weeks of school?

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