Beginning of the Year Checklist

Need a reminder for what to get ready?

Looking for added suggestions on how to be ready for the new year?

Well, here it is:

  • student files – a designated space, and folders ready with names on them
  • plenty of pencils, and sharpened
  • a few pencil sharpeners — one is never enough
  • an empty bulletin board (ready for students to fill)
  • new student folders (just have a few on-hand with copies of the items you handed out the first week, and maybe a few diagnostics)
  • snacks — everyone needs a snack drawer
  • medicine — have some ibuprofen for those headache days, and whatever you take when you feel that tickle in your throat (Cold-eeze, Emergen-C, etc.)
  • an extra pair of shoes — just in case the day’s shoe choice is a bust, or you decide to take a walk before/after school
  • pens — lots of them, preferably in a few colors
  • emergency folder — that first fire drill comes earlier and earlier each year, have evacuation materials ready
  • a schedule posted — you’ll be happy that first month for this, trust me
  • blank cards — to write a few nice notes or a few thank yous whenever inspired
  • a sub folder — for the last minute and unfortunate sick day (have a student roster and a few master copies of basic items on-hand for anyone to use)

It’s not a complete list, and it’s not a list focused on just you, just the learning, or just the classroom. It’s a list of those odds and ends that come up every year, the things I routinely remember later, or the things I realized I should probably commit to getting ready next time.


Classroom Tip #1

As we begin a brand new year, we need to consider a theme . . . for the classroom. Not in terms of a reading unit or any other learning unit, but a theme for decor.

I can write pages on how to decorate, how to decorate well, and how to decorate with meaning, but let’s first begin with a theme. The theme will drive everything else.

A classroom with a theme can provide a more thoughtful starting point to creating a space that is equal parts vibrancy, routine, familiarity, fun, and organization.

Before we can begin to discuss each of these elements, and those previously mentioned, first decide on a theme.


  • Animal (pick one animal, animals from your region, etc.)
  • Amusement Park
  • Black & White
  • Comic books/Superheroes
  • Desserts
  • Disney
  • Gardens
  • Harry Potter
  • Museum(s)
  • Ocean
  • Pixar
  • Social Media
  • Space
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • Zoo

These are just a few ideas–ideas I have in my mind for the future and ideas I have seen in other classrooms. I’m not leaving too much detail or direction now; rather, I want to spark interest and inspiration as classrooms begin to be decorated.

Decide on a theme. Think of its elements. Think of classroom-based translations for your theme. Write it all down, start designing and decorating, and then come back here–I have much more to say 😉


Designed a logo and bought some business cards — it’s going to be a big, productive, and wonderful year 🏫✏️📚🍎


Special Education: Part 2

Students that qualify for special education can fall into a number of categories. While the most severe and visible categories of special education are usually displayed and discussed, as noted in my first post, special education is broad, complex, and includes a number of services for each individual’s circumstances.

When I speak with non-educators, or when I have watched the news, the students who need special education services are limited in understanding–the range and diversity of students is not evident in the discussion, nor adequately represented in any forum.

Therefore, let me list some categories, demographics, and populations to illustrate the wide-range of need, services, and students that qualify for special education:

  • blind/visually impaired
  • permanent and temporary physical disability
  • deaf & hard of hearing
  • speech impairment
  • language delay
  • specific learning disability–i.e. dyslexia
  • intellectual disability
  • multiple disabilities
  • other health impairment (the all-encompassing category)

Within each of these categories, there is an abundance of diversity. For instance, five students with language delays in the 2nd grade can have 5 different levels of severity in their language delays due to previous support at home and at school, as well as other factors such as the underlying cause of their language delay.

Technically, IDEA has 13 broad categories for special education (autism, blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment). That’s not to say that these categories cannot overlap, will not change over time, or be renamed. Our understanding of health and education is constantly evolving, and so are the labels and practices tied to them.

These categories do not touch on a student’s gender, age, primary language, first language, religious orientation, place of birth, citizenship, family structure, or overall schooling experience. All of these individual factors influence the best placement, ideal service, and the development of academic goals.

The point in all of this is to emphasize that special education services are incredibly vast because the range, diversity, needs, and abilities of students is equally vast. So, in the next conversation on funding, on who will teach what, on where students should be placed, on what constitutes special education, on who needs special education, etc. extend that discussion as far as possible–because that’s how far special education extends.