First Day of School Survival: Do’s and Don’ts

First Day of School: What Teachers Should DO and What They Shouldn't Do

Are you worried about making it through the first day of school?  Do you feel like you may not survive?  First day down…. and you are too?  Um, no thanks!

Let’s face it, teachers hardly even sleep on back to school eve.  If I can snatch up more than 4 hours, I feel like a superhero.  The mixture of anxiety, excitement, anticipation, and stress does a number on our ability to get a little bit of shut eye on that highly anticipated night before back to school.

Here are a few tips and tricks for your first day back in the classroom.  Take them into consideration and hopefully the monkey in your brain can chill out and let you rest.


  1. Set two alarm clocks in the morning.  If you’re like me, the back-to-school anxiety can have you staring at your ceiling until 2:00 in the morning.  Showing up late on the first day because of an alarm snafu wouldn’t be an ideal way to start off the year with your students (or their parents, oye, the parents…. that would be bad).
  2. Plan enough activities to fill two days of school instead of one.  Dead time on the first day sets a tone for students that could be difficult and exhausting to overcome.  Here are some great ones.  
  3. Spend a lot of time going over routines and procedures.  How do you expect students to line up?  What are the bathroom procedures?  Hallway behavior expectations?  Practice each routine and procedure a few times and then, when you think they’ve got it down, do it again.  Infuse fun along the way as well.  
  4. Make a point to acknowledge each student in some defining way (and use their name in your statement).  For example, “Wow Marcela!  I can tell you really work hard at school by the effort you’re putting in here!”  Students will go home feeling validated and acknowledged… and that’s a BIG WIN!
  5. If nothing else, make easy, reachable, and very basic goals.  The bare minimum would be to greet ’em, feed ’em, pee ’em, and get ’em home.  If you can do that, you can call your day a success!
These first day of school do's and don'ts will help alleviate teacher's back to school jitters and provide them with a list of useful survival tips.


  1. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes.  No, really.  If you can get away with wearing slippers, do it.  Those really cute shoes in your closet that rub on your big toe just a little bit…  those are a recipe for blisters and discomfort beginning at 10:00 in the morning.  Don’t ruin your day over a cute pair of shoes.
  2. Don’t get so caught up in making your room look cute that you forget to jam pack your first day with some fun, meaningful, get-to-know you activities.  Need some?  Click here.  Be sure that your students can do some of those activities independently, as you will inevitably be pulled in many directions all day long (talking to parents, greeting students who walk in late, unexpected interruptions, etc.).
  3. Don’t allow other teachers to influence the way you approach your students.  Just because Sarah is Ben’s sister, it doesn’t mean Sarah is the same as Ben (in any kind of way).  Just because Grayson had a tantrum in the hallway every afternoon last year, it doesn’t mean that he will be difficult this year.  Allow all of your students to walk in with a completely clean slate.  If you assume the best, your students will be much more likely to achieve their potential.
  4. Don’t be too hard on yourself.  You’d be hard pressed to find a teacher who has achieved perfection on the first day of school.  There will be surprises, challenges, and hopefully many joyful moments.  You will make mistakes and that’s par for the course.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, vent to a close friend, and keep chugging along.  Despite those hiccups along the way, you are changing the world, one child at a time.

    Go get ’em, grasshopper!

These first day of school do's and don'ts will help alleviate teacher's back to school jitters and provide them with a list of useful survival tips.

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I am Kirsten Tulsian, an elementary educator with 18 years of experience as a teacher and counselor. My passion lies in empowering students to discover their inherent brilliance through the use of engaging, rigorous, and meaningful activities. I look forward to connecting with you!

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