Whether it was my first year of teaching or my fifth year of teaching, ‘Meet the Teacher’ night was always a source of stress. But over the years, I’ve picked up several hints and tips and made a few resources that takes some of the stress out of the event and allows me to connect with parents and get the year off to a positive start.
My main tip, before I get into the details, is to be yourself and let your personality shine through. Let the parents see a glimpse of the person their child sees at school every day. This way your students and their parents can truly get to know you and see that you are a person who cares about their child. In order to do this, you need time to dedicate to each family so that you can have meaningful conversations. Getting round to speak to everyone obviously requires time which, as teachers know all too well, is limited. So how do you make the time?
Well first off, I don’t stand at the front and speak to everyone as a whole group. Instead, I have an automated PowerPoint containing key information running on a loop at the front of the room which duplicates some of the information provided in the handouts parents receive – hopefully, that way at least some of the important details will get through!
Secondly, I organise my room so that parents know automatically what to do without any direction or assistance from the staff. I set up different stations around the room with signs that direct “traffic” and let everyone know what to do and how to do it.
Station signs should clearly direct students and parents around your room so they don’t need assistance from you. Again, this will free you up to give enough attention to each family. These station signs you see above (along with all of the other printables) can be found in my Meet the Teacher resource. Also, they are editable so that you can change the text to fit your classroom. I would recommend using standing alligator clips or menu holders to stand them up on tables.
At my first station, I ask that all parents sign in - and provide an up to date contact number and email address to aid communication. I also put together a folder for each child that contains information about reading, spelling and key maths skills needed in my year group. I put this second so that they have the folder to store any other information sheets they pick up throughout the evening.
Once you have your signs organised and place throughout the room, it’s important that you create a Meet the Teacher letter prior to the evening. This is something you can easily create using my Meet the Teacher letter editable template. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and share some of your personal information. It’s also an icebreaker because it shares a lot of details that make great conversation starters. Parents love to talk about the college you went to, your family and children, etc.
Another thing you can do to have a successful night is to get parents involved. I provide parents with a detailed parent letter outlining my classroom policies and expectations. In addition, I always like to include some helpful tips for parents that they can use to get their child prepared for school each day.
In order to learn more about my pupils, I also like to set out a parent questionnaire. There is no one that knows your students more than their parents. This questionnaire will provide you with a lot of great information and show parents that you care and appreciate their input.
I also like to set out a volunteer form or sign-up sheet, to allow parents to offer their services. By providing parents with a volunteer form, you are more likely to increase parent involvement and encourage parents and other family members to volunteer in your classroom.
Another thing I like to do on Meet the Teacher night is to provide families with explicit information about my classroom. This includes things like the schedule, expectations, grading policy, homework, etc. Most parents will ask about your rules and procedures, so it will help if you have it prepared ahead of time so you can direct them to your materials.
In my Meet the Teacher resource, I have included both a no-cut flipbook that you can edit and hand out both to parents. You can edit this flipbook and brochure with important back-to-school class information. It's a great way to put important information at parents’ fingertips. I have even pre-filled in the information for you as a template, but it is editable, so you can change the text to match your rules and procedures.
One of the last things I provide for parents is a magnet with my contact information on it. These editable magnets are a perfect way to provide parents with your important contact information. Just print on card stock and stick a magnet on the front. Parents can then stick them to their fridge for easy access!
It’s always a nice gesture to thank parents for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend your Meet the Teacher night. This can be something as simple as a box of chocolates to share or something that requires a bit more preparation. It depends on when your Meet the Teacher night takes place. Ours is always during the second week back, so I’m usually swamped with lesson planning and marking, so it needs to be something quick and easy!
Other ideas for things to do include:
Everything you need to have a SUCCESSFUL and STRESS-FREE night is included in my editable Meet the Teacher Survival Kit! Click HERE or the button below to check it out!
Back to school is upon us!
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t know where my summer went… Well, maybe I do: a week setting up my school, a long weekend in London, a week in Switzerland a few days out/lunch dates and boom! Summer is gone and it’s time for school and, if you’re anything like me, you’re running through a mental checklist of all the things you need for the year ahead.
Books, pencils, post-it notes etc… All important and all very much needed by the pupils. But what about you? What do you need for a successful year? At the start of every academic year, I create a ‘teacher survival kit’ to keep in school. Now, this doesn’t contain stationery etc (well, except maybe one thing) but rather this is items that will help me survive the year. Items that I might need in an emergency or will just make my day a little bit easier.
So what do I put in my teacher survival kit? Well, you’ve probably already got some idea from the picture but let's explore these in more detail.
1. Teacher Planner
Now, I know I said no stationery, but this is not just paper. This is my Bible for the year. I tried traditional diaries/notebooks but I ended up with bits of paper and post-it notes everywhere (usually piled up on my desk) and it just wasn’t helping me stay organised. So, I decided to go with a Teacher Planner instead.
I looked online and found a vast array of teacher planners, both pre-made and print at home, but none of them had everything that I needed, so I made my own. This goes everywhere with me and enables me to have pretty much all the information about my class, lessons and school events in one place. You can read about what's included in my planner in this post.
2. Water Bottle
We all know that sometimes it’s hard to take a break in school, even during scheduled playtimes/recess. And I often found myself getting to hometime and having what I can only describe as a ‘fuzzy head’ because of one simple reason – I hadn’t drunk enough water. So, I make sure I carry a reusable water bottle with me (cheaper and far better for the environment than shop-bought water).
This one is from Ecologue – a fantastic source of inexpensive, natural and sustainable alternatives to everyday disposable plastic items – it keeps my water cold for 24 hours, and has a smiley cactus logo - what's not to love?!
3. Travel Mug
Now, I’m not really a hot drink person, but even I have had those mornings where the only thing that’s going to help is caffeine. Then there are those teachers for whom coffee is their lifeblood. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re at, keep a travel mug handy.
We’ve all had those ‘Oops, I forgot the deodorant this morning’ moments. Or, we live quite a distance from school and can’t get home to change before parents evening or meet the teacher night. So having an emergency supply of toiletries allows me to ‘freshen-up’ before having to meet with parents or other visitors. Examples of what I keep at school include:
5. Medicines and Other Health Supplies
Is there anything more necessary to a teacher’s life than paracetamol? I have them everywhere – in my bag, in my car, in my desk and in my store cupboard – so that I can always put my hand on some when I feel those headaches start to creep in.
I also keep a supply of prescribed medication as well as vitamin C supplements to boost my immune system, hand-sanitiser to kill those germs and lozenges, my preferred brand of which is Vocalzone. They don’t taste particularly nice, but they work wonders. I was turned on to them by a pharmacist about four years ago when I completely lost my voice. I could barely make any sound at all. Shortly after my first ‘dose’ of Vocal Zone, my voice returned! I was still quite croaky, but I managed to make it through the day. I’ve never gone back to other lozenges since.
You may also want to add cold and flu medication, allergy tablets, sunblock, and plasters (if they're not easily accessible at school).
6. Snacks and Other Essentials
We’ve all been there – it’s 2.30 on a Thursday afternoon and you’re flagging. You’re in need of a sugar hit (or a glass of wine which will, sadly, have to wait) but there’s nothing left in your lunch bag. This is why I always keep a stash of snacks on hand. The type of snack is up to you. I’m a major chocoholic so my snacks are always cocoa-based (usually Cadbury's), but you can keep sweets, cereal bars, crisps – whatever works for you.
Other essentials I like to have are:
What do you keep at school to help you through those days when things aren’t going according to plan and you need a little extra help?
It's the first week of the summer holiday and what am I doing? Yeah, I'm bust prepping for next year.
So, I'm super late to the Teacher Toolkit train... by about 5 years LOL, but I kept seeing them on people's Instagram and decided that one would be useful in my attempt to keep my classroom organised and my desk tidy next. I had a look at some different labels on TPT but I wanted it to match my classroom décor so I made my own, which you can buy from TPT.
I purchased the toolbox from Amazon. There are different types/sizes but I chose this particular one because I liked the colour - it's bright which will fit in better with my classroom.
Then I printed and laminated my labels. Yes, I keep a laminator on hand at home for little projects like this! I definitely recommend getting one if you don't have one. When they labels were finally laminated they colours looked really bright!
Once that was all done, I cut them out and used double sided tape - a lifeline for any teacher! - to attach them to the outside of the drawers. I did try them on the inside but because the drawers aren't 100% see through it dulled the colours. They're laminated and stuck on well enough that they shouldn't come off.
Actually really excited to get this in my room and fill it up, but I'll need to sort out all the furniture and stuff currently piled in the middle of it first!
I don’t know about you, but in my school we talk a lot about the mental health and well being of our children. And rightly so. It’s one of the most important factors in our students education – if they're upset, stressed, worried or angry, they’re not going to be focused on reading, writing, maths or anything else we try to teach them.
However, what about teacher mental health & wellbeing? Last year, 3,750 teachers were signed off on long-term sick leave due to stress; as the Health and Safety Executive moved teaching to number four in the list of the UK’s most stressful jobs. This was compounded by the latest Teacher Wellbeing Index findings, which reported rising levels of anxiety, depression and irritability amongst the profession.
It's certainly on the agenda for teaching unions and OFSTED in the UK, but has it filtered down through to schools? From the teachers I’ve spoken to, it’s a mixed bag. Some schools have really jumped on it and are putting in place effective strategies to reduce workload and increase staff morale and wellbeing, but others… not so much.
The truth is, there’s no easy way to tackle the issue, but there is something we, as individuals, can do to start the process. If we can begin looking at our own feelings and emotions and track how we’re feeling on certain days, we can spot patterns and triggers. If we know you get stressed out during a certain day of the week, time of the month, or time of the year, we can take extra care of ourselves during those down times. Or we can plan something special to lift our spirits and look forward to.
I find that a great way to track my mood is with a “Year in Pixels” Log – a simple chart with colour-coded emotions. It’s really easy to use - at the end of the day, I take five minutes to think about how I am feeling and if there was anything specific that triggered that feeling or caused a shift in my mood. I just colour the box (and make notes about the triggers if needed). Over time, I begin to see patterns that allow me to adjust or change something in my life to address bad days.
How do you track and manage your stress? Let us know in the comments!
Do you find yourself losing that important paper or forgetting what learning objective or skill is next while typing up lesson plans at the weekend? Is your desk hidden under a pile of loose papers? Are you constantly nagging at your students to be tidier? The struggle is REAL, I know, but there is a solution.
Good organisation is one of the key factors for a successful school year!
Over the next few weeks, my blog posts are going to focus on getting (and staying) organised in the classroom. From things that have worked for me, to tips from teachers around the world, you’re sure to find something that will help you.
The first thing we’re going to look at are teacher planners.
In my opinion, everyone should have a teacher planner. A one stop shop that contains everything you need for your class. I used my first teacher planner a couple of years ago and have never looked back. What I quickly learnt however, was that your planner needs to be flexible and customisable for you. There’s nothing worse than only being given two notes pages in an off-the-shelf planner and filling them up within the first couple of months. Or needing a form that wasn’t included.
So, like any teacher faced with needing a resource that they couldn't find - I created my own!
I made the whole thing in PowerPoint meaning it is editable so teachers can change/alter things to meet their needs. This also means you can type directly into the forms and then print them off, or you can print them first, then hand write all your information. For me, it tends to be a mixture of both. I’ll add my students names onto all the forms and print them off, then I’ll hand write onto the planning/calendar pages.
I also made this planner in two versions - an UK/International version for A4 paper and a US version for Letter size paper. Like many people, I didn't realise until quite recently that American paper is a different size (slightly shorted and wider) than what we use here in the UK and that UK teachers who buy from American sellers often have to mess about changing page size settings and then still end up with some of the graphic stretches. So I decided to save everybody time by converting both the page sizes and the spelling/terminology before I uploaded.
Knowing what’s going on in and around school is super important for organisation, but also for managing our stress levels. No more panicking if it’s your assembly this week or trying to remember when report cards are due. The calendars in this planner are double page spreads to give more room to write for those REALLY busy days/weeks that crop up from time to time. They also have notes pages so you can jot down anything that crops up that doesn’t fit into a specific day or time frame!
If there’s one thing I wanted to get right in this planner it was the lesson planning pages. Planning is the bread and butter of what we do as teachers, but it can also be the most onerous task. The planning formats come in two styles (subjects on the top, or subjects on the side). They also come in 4, 5, 6 & 7 subject version. But it’s really easy to add or delete subjects if these don’t quite meet your needs. You can also edit the subjects – you can be specific if you teach the same subjects each day – name them, if not you can change the text to ‘period 1, 2, 3…’ or ‘lesson 1, 2, 3…’ etc.
I also added some additional daily and small group lesson formats as well as some digital stickers to brighten up the calendars and planning pages - after all, who doesn't like a bit of colour in their teacher binder?
This planner contains over ___ forms – from Class Lists and Schedules to Parent Contact and Field Trip Forms – you’re sure to find what you need. And on the off chance you don’t, you’re covered there too with my ‘Create Your Own’ form template. There are also forms for tracing attendance if you don't do this digitally as well as Grading Sheets and Weekly/Daily To-Do Lists.
I firmly believe that not only should a planner help us be organised but it should reflect the style and personality of its owner too. That's why this planner comes with over 35 cover designs (with more being added). And if you don’t find one that jumps out for you, let me know what you’d like and I’ll make it for you at no additional cost.
The best part is that this planner comes with free updates. I'm always thinking up new and exciting ways to make my planner better. Every time I add a new form or cover, you'll be notified and will be able to download it FOR FREE!!
Like what you see? You can purchase the planner from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Just decide what pages you'll need, print them off and put them together. This planner will work with a traditional 2 or 3 ring binder, but I like to use the a disc binder system. (Arc by Staples or Happy Planner by Me & My Big Ideas). Disc binding offers the same flexibility as a ring binder, but still looks pretty. Here's how it works:
Check out this fantastic disc-binding tutorial by Sea Lemon for more details on how it works:
Thank you so much for joining me on the launch of my new blog!!! I am so excited for this new adventure and thrilled that you are here to share it with me!!
I've been sharing resources on TPT/TES now for about a year, so moving into blogging and instagramming seemed to be the next logical step. My goal is to provide unique ideas and quality resources to help teachers keep their students engaged and in love with learning. Be sure to follow me on my social media channels to get some fun resources, ideas, and motivation for your students!!
I'm so happy to share my teaching journey with you and hopefully help you along yours as well!
I'm Ruth. I'm a teacher based in Manchester, UK.
I've been teaching for seven years and am currently based in Year Four, but I have also taught in Year One and Reception.
This blog contains teaching ideas, printables, curriculum, lessons, and activities for your classroom! Make sure to visit often to see the latest blog!