Hi Everyone! So, I have mentioned before that I recently made a switch from deaf education to regular education due to a lack of deaf education positions in my area, and at this point I am feeling pretty good about my decision! But I cannot say that is how I felt in the first few weeks of kindergarten this year! Even though I am not a first year teacher, regular education – and kindergarten! – are both a WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD!
The first week of school is coming soon for some of you! Or maybe you have just started and are looking for some tips! Our district started a bit early this year so I thought I would share some tips and tricks that I learned in the first few weeks of kindergarten!
It is NORMAL to feel like you are drowning in the first weeks of kindergarten:
One thing I realized by week three is that I wasn’t emotionally prepared. I was told so many times by coworkers that “you don’t know what you don’t know”. I didn’t realize they meant a few different things by this.
- You can’t prepare for everything.
- Whether you are new to teaching or just new to the school – a lot of it is learn as you go. Sodon’t take it personal if you don’t know how the lunch line works etc.
- Breathe, and keep afloat.
So rest assured. If you feel like you are drowning, just trying to keep everyone safe and alive, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, and learning eight million new things about your school/kids/class/coworkers everyday – then you are probably doing it right! You WILL survive the first few weeks of kindergarten! So take a deep breath, expect the first week or two to be crazy, and keep your chin up!
Everyone will tell you “it gets better!”, and it really does!! I was doubting that a lot but by week three I am loving kindergarten!!
Things I didn’t know that I didn’t know:
- Dismissal: Know how each of your kids gets home ASAP. If there are any questions, contact the office so they can confirm with parents.
- Dismissal Routine: Unspoken rule I discovered at my school- Kindergarten lines up and goes out to buses before the dismissal bell rings. Ask your team how they organize and leave for busses/cars/aftercare! A teammate also shared a document she uses to organize her students in line to easily put them on the correct buses!
- Check backpacks/Daily folders ASAP in the morning and get all important notes to the office. The front office works very hard and does a fabulous job so help them out by getting them their information early!
- Ask for information about school protocols/routines. My school has specific expectations for the hallway, morning assembly, lunch line, specials arrival/dismissal etc.
- If you have students with food allergies, notify the cafeteria manager just in case they haven’t been notified! This will help you out on watching for meals that certain children cannot eat.
Tips & Tricks That Work for Me!
Tag your kids on day one! I made card-stock cards with yarn necklaces and laminated them. The kids ate them… That was a no-go. A coworker let me use her extra plastic name tags that clip onto their shirts! These were gold! Put their names, grade, your name, and how they get home! Wear for the first weeks of kindergarten until they learn the routines! This helps specials teachers, you, your assistant, and all other school employees to learn their names and what room they belong to. This will also help if you have any kiddos that accidentally wonder off, or get mixed up in hallway lines/lunch room etc!
I was hesitant to do this as I wanted my students to have a sense of ownership in the room with name tags on cubbies, mailboxes, etc. Wrong. First of all, many of them are not yet able to visually pick out their name. And numbers are so helpful when organizing papers, folders, etc. You will have so many checklists the first few weeks with assessments and papers to go home that the number system will SAVE YOU! They also learn their numbers VERY quickly!
Instead of assigning numbers by alphabetical order, my assistant came up with the genius idea to put them in order of how they are dismissed. Our buses are in the same line up every day, so I put my students in order of the bus line from where we walk out the door. So for example: the first numbers are students that go with my assistant to the car/aftercare lines. The rest of the line is in order of which bus they ride! This has been a LIFE SAVER!
Name tags on tables:
If I could do it all over. I would NOT put name tags ANYWHERE for the first few weeks of kindergarten. The first reason is because my roster practically doubled in the first two days of school. So some had names some didn’t. The second reason is because you will be finding out who can sit with who and who can’t.
*Also – use avery labels on the tables/desks because they WILL tear up your pretty name tags. I went through an entire pack of cute Pete the Cat name tags. RIP cute nametags 🙁 And even when I switched to avery labels, most of them have still been torn up, colored on, etc.
This is your golden ticket to surviving the first weeks of kindergarten. Especially in kindergarten. Review the rules EVERY MORNING and again in the afternoon. Be strict about your rules and expectations. They are young but they can handle it!
Take time to teach/model/correct every little thing. I was skeptical of this at first but learned my lesson in some areas. Take time to discuss bathroom expectations. Take time to wait for your line to be quiet, straight, and hands by sides. So line up to go anywhere EARLY. Or you will be late to everything. And if you are lined up and ready early, just utilize that time to review expectations or play simon says and practice following directions.
Try to use more praise and compliments to correct behaviors you don’t like. This is hard when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off. But when you see your class going a little nuts, a quick “I like how Johnny is standing quietly with a bubble with his hands by his sides waiting to go into the hall – thank you Johnny!” will straighten up a lot of the class pretty quickly!
Remember – you are their rockstar! Structure is love!
You may have a child or two that take special attention to provide structure for and get into a routine. For some reason everything I learned about behavior plans escaped my brain the first week! My suggestion is to have a behavior plan ready! A simple sticker chart or whole punch chart to implement right of the bat is a good thing to have handy on day one!
You Are Going to do Great!
I hope your first weeks of kindergarten are great! My last words of wisdom are to load up on vitamin C, sleep, and healthy foods before your first week! I was sick by day three with the head cold all my friends brought to school with them!
And make sure you know who to call for concerns the first few days. (ie: who do you call if a student is out of hand and needs to leave your room, who do you call if you have concerns that you want the special education teacher to collaborate with you or observe, who do you call if a child
istelling you they are supposed to go home a different way, and what is the protocol for sending a child to the nurse.)
I feel like if I had a heads up on these fun and tricky parts of the first weeks of kindergarten, I would have gotten a lot more sleep, been a lot more prepared, and felt a lot better! But just remember, it gets better! Lean on your team, reach out to your administration, and put a smile on! Because teaching really is a wonderful job! You are going to love it!