First-Year Teacher Tips: How to Plan the Perfect First Week of School

For a first-year teacher, your first week of school can be a doozy! Even though you may have tons of experience student-teaching, I don’t know any programs that let you walk into a classroom and student-teach on the first day of school. Therefore, this entirely different (and very important) world of teaching remains foreign to you until it is your own classroom and the first day of school is upon you! Then, with no practice, you are expected to explain and enforce classroom rules and procedures, establish a classroom culture, ween kids into challenging content and centers, communicate and coordinate with parents… PHEW! And that’s really just the first day!

For a first-time teacher, all of these new experiences can be super over-whelming – in fact, you are probably just as nervous and over-stimulated as your students walking into a classroom for the first time! That’s okay! In this episode, I go over what to teach, how to teach it, and why it works so you can have tons of options to help your students learn the rules and procedures, while still having fun!  The most important thing to remember is to find what works best for you and to be yourself. You’re going to do great and you’re going to change your students’ lives as long as you always teach within yourself.

Once your students master these procedures, your class will be the talk of the school. Spending the time early in the year to get behavior perfect will allow for much more time to spend teaching throughout the rest of the year. While other teachers are still disciplining during hallways and transitions, you will be cruising through challenging material that your classroom WANTS to learn.

While there’s always a rush to jump into content and get to the meat and potatoes, please take as long as you need for your students to master procedures. Break these procedures down into bite-size pieces and spend time on every aspect of each procedure so students know what goes into a perfect line, a perfect cafeteria, a perfect transition, and a perfect day overall in school! My classes have gone anywhere from 3 weeks to 8 weeks until mastery; it just depends on the class and how rigorously you are enforcing your expectations.

An example of these bite-size procedures would be all the steps that it takes to go through the cafeteria successfully. There are so many mini-procedures that factor into a good-looking lunchtime in preschool.

Cafeteria Procedures:

  • How to enter the cafeteria
  • How to go through the lunch line (get tray, milk, food)
  • How to answer the lunch lady
  • How to hold a full tray and walk to the lunch table
  • How to eat (with proper manners)
  • How to open milk carton
  • How to ask for help in cafeteria (knowing the aides)
  • How to throw away your trash
  • How to put away your tray
  • How to line up (for recess or back to class)

It’s not just get your food and eat. And while this may seem like a lot, it would be a lot more if you had to correct eight or nine different small procedures everyday. Plus, you do it all very quickly. It is just a matter of making it explicit. Once kids know what they are expected to do, they will usually do it! Most of the time, failure to uphold these procedures is because a teacher didn’t practice all these mini-procedures with the class!

While consistency is important, also make sure that you make your procedures fun! Practicing walking through the halls doesn’t mean marching single file like the military! In our class, we used laminated circles to act as steering wheels and then we “drove” through the hall, obeying all the laws of the “roads.” This made the hall-walking much more fun because we were working in pursuit of our “drivers’ licenses!” Listen to the full story of learning to walk the halls in this week’s episode! 

Start with the end in mind.  What are your expectations in a dream classroom? Figure them out and how you want your classroom to look because nothing happens by accident! Great classrooms have to be intentional and students need to know expectations to be able to live up to them and check themselves. Be consistent. Make procedures feel like second-nature. Give students responsibility and direction to take ownership over behavior and learning.

If you can do all this, you will have the greatest first year teaching imaginable! 

Thank you so much for joining us this week! Was there anything I missed in this episode that you’d like to hear more about? Would you mind sharing in the comments so all the great teachers can learn from your thoughts? Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post. Also, please leave an honest review for the Punk Rock Preschool Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are super helpful and greatly appreciated and I will read all of them!  If you have any questions or want to learn more, head on over to! And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates!

Show Times:

  • [02:34] – Introduction
  • [06:10] – Mindset Shift
  • [08:58] – Strategies
  • [22:12] – Strategy #5 – How to Deal with Crying Kids
  • [28:39] – Major Takeaways


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