Eighteen easy back-to-school steps
A teacher's step-by-step guide to preparing to return to the classroom

Eighteen easy back-to-school steps
Addyson Santese - 08/10/2023

1. Plan to start having stress dreams about the first day of school, like the one where you’re standing in front of a classroom of unmanageable students that’s more like a frothing pit of vicious piranhas and they all hate you and everything about your specific personality, at least a month in advance. Two if you can manage it.  

2. Go to bed a little earlier each night. You want to start the school year feeling refreshed and re-energized. If you don’t, expect that students will be brutally honest with their opinions about your appearance and/or ask if you have a wasting disease. 

3. Spend obscene amounts of time ensuring your course pages and instructions are meticulously crafted to be friendly yet firm, organized but not overwhelming, and intuitive without being demeaning. Additionally, practice avoiding the phrase “it’s in the syllabus,” lest you be viewed as bitchy and receive a poor score on Rate My Professor. 

4. Throw in some laughter. Prepare a joke or riddle of the day. You’re more relaxed just thinking about it, right? (OK, I have to confess – I pulled this tip from another article. It was too funny not to include). 

5. Buy the perfect pop culture bumper sticker, but reconsider putting it on your car because you don’t want your ride to be easily identifiable in the school parking lot that conveniently doesn’t have security cameras. 

6. Remove the schedule that the administrative assistant kindly taped to your office door – the schedule that details your exact location at all times – because you work in a building that is unlocked 24/7 and anyone could come in at literally any time, a thought that doesn’t seem to disturb anyone else in your hall.

7. Visit your assigned classrooms beforehand to check out the tech upgrades (good luck girl, only God can help you figure out how to work that new projector now). While you’re there, see if there are windows or doors to escape through in case of a school shooter.

8. Pause to wonder if you’re the kind of brave teacher who would take a bullet for a student. 

9. Feel guilty when the answer is probably not.

10. Think about all your colleagues who thought that your precautionary measures were ridiculous because “a shooting has never happened in (insert idyllic place).” Consider all the towns and schools where a shooting had never taken place until it did. Subsequently, count the number of shocked residents, left in utter disbelief after precisely such a tragedy occurred in (insert idyllic place) and divide that by zero – you’ve found the sum total of people who should have been surprised.

11. Hope that this will finally be the semester where you don’t have a student come to your office and tell you they’ve been missing class and are thinking of dropping out of school because they’re struggling with a sexual assault case. Prepare yourself for this exact situation anyway because it’s happened every single year that you’ve been teaching.

12. Don’t stop to consider if your male colleagues have to expend this much mental and emotional energy to get ready for the first day of classes. You’ve still got a lot to do to get ready for the school year. (Also, no, they don’t). 

13. Take care of yourself by scheduling a massage! (Alright, yes, this is another ludicrous tip I found in a different article. Laugh twice at this suggestion if you’re both a teacher and a parent). 

14. Do some fast math: if you’re too young to be someone’s grandma and therefore unsexy, but you’re also not old enough to be out of the theoretical dating age range, determine that students will automatically grant you 36% as much respect as your male counterparts. Go ahead and round that number down to 30% for the inevitable email you’ll receive from a student that starts with “‘sup?” and ends with them asking if they “missed anything important” when they skipped your class to shred some fresh pow. 

15. Set aside some time to worry that the assigned reading list you’ve spent the summer compiling contains too much feminist literature. Inevitably think back to the guy in your creative writing workshop who said he just “couldn’t connect” to your writing because there were “too many women” in the story. Try not to spontaneously combust.

16. Avoid buying new folders or pencils or notebooks or any other stationery because you’re fully stocked after dumpster diving through last year’s discarded supplies. You’re still working with a teacher’s salary after all.

17. Scan your closet. As a female teacher, you don’t want to wear anything too form-fitting because then people won’t respect you or take you seriously, but you also can’t dress like a frumpy old cow because then people won’t respect you or take you seriously. Simply find a few cute outfits that are youthful yet professional while avoiding showing any cleavage, leg, stomach or shoulder. Really, any human skin at all is considered sexually suggestive and therefore a no-go, so if you can just rip that off prior to the first day, that’s probably for the best.

18. And finally, here’s the absolute best tip I can offer to prepare you for the trenches of a new school year: Walmart has five-cup coffee makers on sale for $9.98 in aisle H20. You’re welcome. 

– Addyson Santese

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