MiddleWeb’s Back to School Resources
Updated July 2023
Quick Help: If you only have time to read a few articles, try this post by “It’s Not Easy Being Tween” blogger Cheryl Mizerny: What your new middle school students want most on the first days of school are the answers to these 7 questions.
Also see Curtis Chandler’s How Can We Improve the First Days of School? It’s sure to add joy and enthusiasm to those first days. And check out this post at his New Teacher Tips blog: What Research Tells Us about Classroom Decor.
More time? Try this collection of back to school posts by MiddleWeb bloggers and guest writers.
By Susan Curtis
If you are still in denial about the brevity of summer break, you’ll likely identify with a few of the experiences featured in Meghan Mathis’s 25 Reasons You Might Be Freaking out Right Now if You’re a Teacher at the End of Summer Break But You’re Not Done with Summer Yet! at WeAreTeachers.
The VlogBrothers offer a funny and ultimately inspiring 4-minute answer to “why bother with school” in this YouTube video: An Open Letter to Students Returning to School (in this case, public school). It can function just as well to further quicken teacher heart rates as schools re-open around the country.
That urge to get moving is often accompanied by a swarm of butterflies circling in teachers’ stomachs. I still remember one of my pre-first-day dreams that featured desks all neatly nailed to the ceiling. Fortunately they weren’t yet occupied by eager eighth graders. Roxanna Elden can help you “interpret” your nightmares in this MiddleWeb article. (It turns out students have back-to-school dreams, too. Here‘s what Peter Gray PhD found in a survey.)
Edutopia blogger and TheNerdyTeacher Nicholas Provenzano recalls his yearly bouts with those nervous twitches of uncertainty that hit not long before the school doors opened. And he offers four suggestions to banish those butterflies, starting with being prepared and not being a control freak. If you have vivid pre-school recollections (or dreams!), please share them in the comments.
Setting the Stage for a New School Year
Transforming that empty space into a room where kids will feel welcome can be fun or formidable, depending upon your view of interior design and the resources you can bring together.
Writing at her Tween Teacher blog, Heather Wolpert-Gawron outlined her nuts and bolts and ant spray regimen for reinvigorating her room. Between the laughs (and a couple of defunct links at the top), you’re likely to find lots of ideas to apply immediately. She touches on the pedagogy behind design decisions in a MiddleWeb interview (Question 2) based on her book Tween Crayons and Curfews: Tips for Middle School Teachers.
For fresh ideas for your classroom layout and decoration, visit 15 Classroom “Before and Afters” to Inspire You: From unorganized chaos to student-ready! by Malia Bartek at WeAreTeachers. The page links to lots more classroom ideas, including bulletin boards, for a variety of budgets.
To prep your tech as well as your space for fall, explore a selection of digital tools recommended by teacher educator Curtis Chandler that can help you streamline lesson planning, create secure class websites, connect with families, and gather information on how your new students like to learn.
August 16, 2023: At ASCD Monica Burns offers 5 Design Apps to Make Teachers’ Lives Easier.
Putting Out the Welcome Mat
Who will be coming in your door? Upper elementary kids who are still thinking concretely? Slightly older kids who suddenly aren’t themselves, sometimes feeling childish and other times wanting to be treated as adults? How you greet them will vary. For students moving up to middle school, their days will likely be radically different.
Heather Wolpert-Gawron delves into the sudden changes the youngsters face and offers suggestions for students, families and teachers in her Edutopia post, Easing the Shift from Elementary to Middle School.
In 2015 Spokane Public Schools created Getting Ready for Middle School (when middle school starts in the seventh grade) with students reporting their experiences. The page links to two more videos: The First Day along with Friends and Activities.
Day 1 and Counting
What to do when they walk in the door? By putting strong relationships at the fore, you can cultivate an environment in which each of your students can grow. Through her many years in the classroom Stephanie Farley has hit upon keys to encourage kids to thrive. At the center – kindness and getting to know each one. Read more here: Building Relationships with Kids from Day One.
In Bringing More Empathy into Your Classroom school psychologist Katelyn Oellerich looks into offering an empathetic response to students’ situations and shares resources for now and throughout the year.
Amid a near-universal celebration of collaborative, interactive work as a 21st century reality and ideal, teacher/administrator Sarah Cooper investigates something we so often forget in our classrooms and our schools: the need for quiet space and the challenges of achieving it in her post Quiet, Please! Rethinking Our Learning Spaces.
Leading the Way
After another school year weighed down by a wide range of challenges, education consultants Ronald Williamson and Barbara R. Blackburn offer school-based leaders a path to restore momentum in their school and revitalize their community’s commitment to a collaborative vision in Restoring Momentum After a Turbulent Year. Williamson and Blackburn share ideas helpful in fall and throughout the year in How Leaders Can Cope with the Unexpected.
Former Assistant Principal DeAnna Miller discusses what she implemented as an AP in her MiddleWeb post How Admin Can Support 2020’s New Teachers which can help administrators at all levels.
It’s a New Year for Parents, Too
Catch parents and other caregivers’ attention by having them write “1 Million Words or Less” on what they would like for you to know about their children. You can get a view of the range of parent responses and variations on the theme from a MiddleWeb Classic conversation. The 2003 listserv chat was populated by a group of insightful folks, many of whom had tried the Million Words tool in a variety of different school settings and contexts.
School counselor and educator Signe Whitson reminds parents of the social and emotional skills they can help their children learn in Getting Your Kids Ready to Go Back to School: An Insider’s Look at What Teachers Really Want from The Huffington Post.
As Principal Rita Platt points out in her blog Heart of the School, Parent Communications Are ALWAYS a Priority especially amid ongoing pandemic challenges. The new school year is a great time to share her parent/teacher do’s and don’ts.
More super sources
At his Classroom Q&A blog at Education Week Larry Ferlazzo has collected posts on great ways to start the new school year here. Find several years of Back to School resources at his Websites of the Day blog.
A Click Away at MiddleWeb
For resources useful to new teachers and veterans alike, visit MiddleWeb’s New Teacher? Here’s Hope and Inspiration. New in 2022/2023 was Curtis Chandler’s blog, New Teacher Tips. We also recommend this MiddleWeb Classic – Newbies: A Week with Rick – resurrected from our old website. It’s a week-long chat between middle grades author Rick Wormeli and a group of teachers, filled with practical advice about nitty gritty topics like pencil sharpening, homework, grading, and seating arrangements.
A Little Comic Relief
Get in the mood for kid humor with this selection from Boys Life readers with plenty of grins and groans from middle graders. Welcome back!