Happy back to school season! This time of year is exciting for kids, parents, and teachers. But if this is your first year teaching kindergarten, it can also feel overwhelming. Try out these teaching kindergarten tips and tricks to make sure your debut year of classroom teaching goes smoothly.

1. Keep it simple

You have probably spent your years studying for your teaching degree and student teaching dreaming about the day when you have your very own classroom. You have a lot of lofty goals and high hopes, and as you start your first year of teaching, you’re chomping at the bit to get started and make the most educational, fun, and joyous classroom ever.

That all sounds wonderful, but you might want to pump the brakes! Getting the hang of teaching takes time, and you might want to get your feet under you a bit more before you go rushing to get it all done. Your first year might not be the time to try and revolutionize classroom organization, scheduling, seating, or curriculum. Stick with the basics and get a handle on your own personal philosophy of teaching kindergarten before you start trying to make it your own.

Start with a few simple goals that you’d like to work on, and focus the most on getting to know your students, your new coworkers, and your school system. Building a strong relationship with your class, the families of your students, and the rest of your teaching team is going to go a long way in making sure that you can succeed in your first year of teaching.

Once you’ve got a great handle on your system, you can start trying out new methods or strategies, but you might be well into your second or third year before you feel stable enough to start messing with your system. That’s perfectly okay! It’s better to go slow and feel comfortable and confident the whole way than overexert yourself and wind up burning out.

2. Build in play time

Don’t forget that this isn’t just your first year in school. It’s also the first time around for your students! Some of your kindergarten students may be coming into school having never stepped foot into a classroom environment before, and many may even be brand new to being in a large group of students. With so much new information to process, they’re going to be stressed and tired just as much as you are.

Fortunately, the solution is the same for both you and your students; take breaks! Build some time into your daily schedule where your students can just play. Add in an extra dose of time outside regularly, or build in time where students can freely play around the classroom. Having unstructured time where they can do as they wish is going to help them be able to come back to the class refreshed and relaxed, ready to learn.

This time is also going to be critical for your own success. Spending all day with your classroom can take a toll, and you need time to spend one-on-one time with your students, grading papers, answering emails, and planning the day’s activities. Take advantage of the time you have and don’t be afraid to give your class – and yourself – extra breaks when you need it!

3. Get close with the parents

For many teachers, parents are a source of great anxiety. The idea of angry parents judging your work in the first year of teaching can be scary. However, getting to know and work closely with the parents of your students is one of the great joys of teaching kindergarten! Remember that parents want you to succeed just as much as you do, and many of them are excited for their child to start their first year of school and are eager to help you.

If your school’s PTA organizes designated Class Parents, then get in touch with your assigned helpers as early as possible. Work with your class parents and PTA to figure out what can be done to support you for your first year. A lot of the time you’d be surprised at the kind of help you can get if only you ask. Some PTAs will even go so far as to fundraise to provide you with some extra funds to get your classroom up and running.

If your school doesn’t organize designated volunteers, organize it yourself! In the early back-to-school days. If you have a back-to-school parent night, use it to solicit volunteers from the parents. If you don’t have a chance to address the parents in person, include it in your back-to-school communications home via paper handouts or email. Not all of them are going to be available or enthusiastic to help, but you’d be surprised how many parents are more than willing to lend a helping hand!

Enlist parents to come in to assist for classroom events, help prepare craft materials, gather supplies for upcoming projects, and read for the class during storytime. Don’t be afraid to rely on your parent volunteers! Getting closer with your class parents isn’t just a great way to reduce your workload, but also to involve families in your school’s community and enrich your students’ experience of kindergarten.

4. Get help

Your first year of teaching kindergarten is going to be a lot easier with a few extra hands helping you! Don’t feel like you need to do everything from scratch for yourself. Assemble a team around you to support and assist you throughout the entire school year.

Your administration team can help you locate resources, establish a curriculum, and coordinate supplies and training to help you get started. Ask the rest of your teaching team or mentor teachers at your school for advice. Often other teachers can also help by sharing their supplies, projects, and curriculum materials with you. Your coworkers will also be a great emotional support system for you, to support you when your first year of teaching feels overwhelming.

There’s also lots of ways to make community with other teachers online. Facebook groups for kindergarten teachers can be a great place to vent your frustrations, get advice, and find support with other people who understand your struggle. Websites like Teachers Pay Teachers are great for accessing classroom decorations, handouts, projects, and forms made by other teachers so you don’t have to make everything from scratch.

5. Don't overdo it

As teachers, you always want to go the extra mile to take care of your kids. You’re willing to work hard and put in the hours for your students. Sometimes it can even feel like you need to measure up to “better” teachers who come in at the crack of dawn and stay until after dark working. Especially during your first year of teaching kindergarten, there is always more work to be done.

However, remember that taking care of yourself and balancing your work and your life are just as important as having the perfect classroom. After all, you can’t be the best teacher you can be if you’re burned out, frustrated, and stressed. Taking the time to rest and having breaks is going to make you a better teacher, too.

Draw firm boundaries for yourself by limiting the time you spend staying late after school or working from home. For you, taking time off might mean not checking your work email on Saturdays, or it might mean leaving school each day by a certain time. What it means for you to enforce a healthy work/life balance may look different from others, but the goal is the same.

The first year of teaching kindergarten may be a stressful and wild ride, but it’s also an absolute blast and a joyous experience. Your degree for teaching kindergarten couldn’t possibly prepare you for the satisfaction you will feel after successfully completing your first year of teaching, despite the hard work you had to put in. Following these tips for teaching kindergarten will make your ride much smoother, and before you know it you’ll have reached summer.

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