For many of us, it’s that time of year. Back to school season is here. Here in the south, we started Monday with our staff development days. Teachers are running rampant all over trying to get classrooms ready. I’ve done this a few times, well, 15 or so, and I still get antsy and excited at the beginning of each year.

I would argue that if you don’t get antsy, excited, or get a feeling other than one of dread, perhaps you should reflect on why you do what you do, and adjust. Go to some PD that will inspire you, find colleagues who will challenge you, something to get you going.

I am one of those teachers that is at the school several days in the summer. Contrary to popular belief, summers are not a time of being totally off. I attend professional development, develop and learn from my PLN (Twitter is great for this), and plan new ways to engage students. I enjoy what I do, so it is not a burden at all getting to have this extra prep time.

As you set up your room, especially teachers who are new to the profession, think before you do. You will see research that says having a “print rich environment” is best for learning, then on the next website you look at, something will contradict that research and state that students are distracted by too much business in a room.

I would argue that both can be correct. A room that is busy, simply for the sake of being busy, can be distracting. A room that is busy with rich content, or icons symbolizing experiences undergone throughout the year is an entirely different animal. I have what many consider to be a “busy room”. I have quotes up from favorite books, and from texts that we will read throughout the year. I have physical icons hanging from lights from texts we will read. I have a good bit of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars stuff up, partially because kids like it, and partially because I think it is important that your students see you as a person, with real likes.

Plan your room carefully. Don’t just put stuff up to fill space. If you have space, fill it with something meaningful, something that will help you and your students connect to learning, and to each other.

Don’t automatically put kids in rows if you are going to do group work. I let my kids sit in groups on day one, because that is how they will sit all year. They are as nervous as you are, and letting them spend those first couple of days sitting next to someone they know can be extremely helpful. Remember, the first day is about them, not you.

Our students start back tomorrow. I can’t wait, but I already know, sleep won’t come easy tonight. I will worry that I forgot something. I will worry that my class change music playlist has a problem, I will worry that my beginning of the year movie will experience a technical snafu. These are normal feelings, and those of us who worry, worry because we care. We want the first day to capture our kids attention and set the tone for the rest of our year. Make your year count, starting with day one.