12 Ways To Make the Beginning of Your School Year Run Smoothly

12 ways

The beginning of the school year can be a hectic, exhausting, and exhilarating time. I’ve found having a plan and checklist of sorts has been helpful to keep my head from spinning. I am less overwhelmed when things seem to run smoothly. So, today I’ve gathered 12 things for you to check off your list. By no means is my list exhaustive, so add your own tips in the comments below!

at home at work

Note: you can buy the handy to-do list shown above here

At Home

1. Have a morning routine.

Your routine may be the same as last school year, but it doesn’t hurt to do a test run! Write down what you need to accomplish every day before school, like getting yourself and your kids ready. Estimate the time it will take to get ready. Add your travel time, and then add a few cushion minutes!

2. Plan and pick out a week of outfits.

Making clothing decisions the night before takes the pressure off you in the morning. It also saves you valuable time! After trying this for a week, you may incorporate it into your regular evening routine.

3. Plan and pack a week of lunches.

Doing this for a week will help make it a habit. There are some fantastic Pinterest ideas for preparing lunches for a week! Buzzfeed also has a great list to get you started here.

plan lunches

4. Have a nighttime routine.

Maybe you pick out your outfits and pack your lunch at night. Do the tasks consistently, and don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep–especially during those first few weeks of school!

5. Be realistic.

There will be weeks, like during the beginning of school, where you devote more of yourself to your job. However, there will also be times when you devote more of yourself to your home life. Keep this fact in mind.

Check out Jessica’s insightful work-life balance tips from the AOE LIVE episode: “Finding Your Sweet Spot at Home and at Work

work-life balance

At School

6. Prep your room.

I like to have my posters up, new displays ready to go, materials organized, furniture placed, and my class shelves prepped before the first day. This takes extra time, but it’s so worth it to feel prepared and ready to welcome students!

class shelves and folders

7. Know your curriculum.

You don’t need to know the exact day and hour you plan to teach each part of your curriculum. But, it helps to have a general timeline. This way, you can pace yourself accordingly.

8. Know your schedule.

This probably changes year to year and takes some getting used to. But you should know when you can use the restroom, go to lunch, and expect different grade levels.

9. Know your plan for the first day.

“Just winging it” is generally not a great idea. Whether you share expectations, make art, or both, have a plan. Keep in mind time is weird during the first few days of school. Sometimes class periods go quickly while others may seem extra long. Having a few backup activities, like a favorite book to read, is a great idea.

10. Decide how you want to share your expectations.

Last year, I decided to change it up and do a video scavenger hunt. Students were split into teams. They used iPads to scour the art room for QR codes that linked to videos. These videos featured specific expectations or routines for areas around the room. See more about my process here!

a fun way to teach routines

11. Choose your first projects. Make specific plans for the first few weeks.

None of my plans are set in stone, and they need to be flexible for welcome back events. But, I do have a general plan for the first month laid out digitally. I am able to copy and paste as needed to adapt for each class’s progress and any events that might pop up.

digital plans

 12. Try to stay positive and enjoy yourself!

The beginning of the year is a stressful time for you, your colleagues, your family, and your students. It might be important to build in extra “down” time. Not only is this important for the first few weeks, but it can help you stay sane throughout the school year.

While life doesn’t always go according to plan, it helps to have a plan of action to help guide you. I know when I feel organized and prepared, things seem to run more effortlessly.

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What do you do to ensure your school year runs smoothly?

Which items stress you out the most? Which are the most fun to complete?

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek


Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.


  • Diana

    Help! Im a veteran art teacher but classroom management needs to be improved. I’m going to teach , model, etc. the routines and procedures. please tell me what’s worked for you BUT not sure the best consequences to give for my rules????? Ugh And I’ve been doing extensive reading on the subject this summer. Even read Michael Linsin’s book for specialists.

    • Amber Bergmann


      I have found its much easier to seek and praise positive behaviors you see students doing. If I pick out someone doing the correct way in my classroom and recognize them verbally, generally the misbehaving student will stop. If not I’ll give them a warning. Finally a note home. But focus on the good things you see and tell students what you love about what they’re doing RIGHT. It will make you and your students love your classes that much more. Even those tough kids need love.

      • Alecia Eggers

        Very well put Amber! Thank you! :) In addition to focusing and giving attention to the positive, keep your consequences consistent once you decide what they are. Mine include a warning, time away from the group, and then communication with parents or office depending on the situation. Hope that helps!

  • Diana

    @Amber yes I actually have used that technique for many years and will keep doing it. In Linsin’s’ book he says to not praise behaviors That are expected behavior but To thank them………I usually have done both. Thank you for your Feedback.

    @Alecia. Yes consistency with my behavior management plan is key. And this year I really need to teach, Mosel, the right way and wrong way of routines and then have students model right and wrong way. As it says in Linsin’s book, to teach well the routines is of great importance. Thank you for your feedback.

  • Sherwoodartroom

    I love your tip about outfits. I always, always get my outfit picked out the night before. If I need to bring papers to school I put them on the kitchen counter, right by the door so I can’t forget them, the night before. Doing what I can the evening before makes mornings run so much smoother.

  • Diana

    Hi Alecia,
    Do you write out the directions for the steps of every lesson for class to see? If so, how do you find a place for that? Do you think it’s necessary to write out all the steps of a lesson? It’s so time consuming. PLEASE ADVISE. THANK YOU!

    • Alecia Eggers

      Hi Diana,

      I do not right out steps. If I do, they are very abbreviated as just the main steps.

      • Diana

        Thank you for replying Alecia…….greatly appreciated !