Back to School: Getting the 1st Day Right

School year 2023-2024 is upon us and that first day is so important. The adage – you never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression – is absolutely true. Here are a few tips for teachers, parents, and school leaders to help you get the first day right for everyone involved.


  1. Be welcoming – you set the tone!  Your students will vary between the outgoing and very shy, so be ready to create community with all of them. Give each student a smile and introduce yourself.  With the classroom already set up in a warm and inviting manner, you can help them feel comfortable and excited about the learning experiences ahead this school year.  Knowing student names is a big part of welcoming a student, so a simple seating chart that first day (or week) helps you acquire and remember those names quickly.  Calling a student by their name shows that you value them and creates a connection that can last. 
  2. Be clear – the first day is just like a first impression – you never get a second chance.  After initial icebreakers and introductions, start teaching routines and expectations.  Clearly communicate those policies on behavior, participation, assignments, and other important matters.  Then, ask students to contribute to that list by adding some that they would like to see.  Once finalized, then make this available for everyone to see and reference.  When students know what is expected of them from the start, it creates collaboration and open communication among them.
  3. Be thoughtful – if your school has a brand-new teacher (as in their first year in the classroom), then make sure you check on them throughout the day.  Have a team that rotates to them at specific times – before school, after 2 periods, during lunch, recess or PE time, and at the end of the day.  You will be amazed at the questions that arise throughout that first day and someone being there is a big help.


  1. Be prepared – this first tip seems like common sense, but do not assume.  This idea is not so much focused on school supplies as it is preparing them for what is ahead.  Letting you children know what is coming helps them mentally and physically prepare.  For instance, look at bedtimes for children. If you allow them to stay up later during the summer, then go ahead and tell them the new time they will be going to bed.  It would also be a good idea to have them start going to bed at that time several days in advance.
  2. Be routine oriented – the first day is a big transition as children move from a summer schedule to a more structured environment.  In the previous point, bedtime was mentioned; however, routine is much more involved.  Have them get up at the same time, eat breakfast in the same place, and follow a schedule in coming home.  Give them free play time to unwind after the day at school before jumping right into homework.  When you establish consistency, you avoid last-minute rushing out the door and it puts your child in a better frame of mind. 
  3. Be excited – many children feel a mix of excitement and nervousness about that first day of school.  Reassure them that their feelings are normal and that many students are having those same thoughts.  Remind them of the past years when they were anxious about that first day but enjoyed the school year.  Highlight the exciting aspects of school such as new friends, learning new things, new topics, and even field trips. 
  4. Be loving – just a short and simple “bonus tip” here.  Take the time to write your child a note and put it in their lunchbox or backpack for them to find during the school day.  You can also have one waiting on them when they get home that afternoon.  This is an easy way to remind them that you are thinking about them during the day. 


  1. Be early – as you want your teachers in their classes and well-prepared to greet their students, then you need to lead by example.  Bee the first person there in the morning and greet teachers as they walk in the door.  You, and the administrative team, could have little gifts with a handwritten note on their desks before they arrive.  That little touch makes all the difference in the world and helps the teacher open with a great mindset.
  2. Be in classes – as teachers are arriving, walk through the building and converse briefly with your teachers.  Ask if there is anything they need before the school day begins.  Once that first bell has sounded and classes have started, continue to work through classes.  The more students and teachers see you on that first day – the better!  Your presence sends a strong message and sets a positive tone for the entire school community.
  3. Be prepared – this thought focuses on the new students in your school.  If you are an elementary principal, you know the kindergarten students (and their parents) are going to struggle.  Just be prepared to volunteer yourself to escort those children to the classrooms and assure parents that you will take good care of those students.  You know this first day can be hectic, so be prepared to address these (and other) logistical challenges that will arise.

Now, if you did not see a tip in either group that you think should be here, please send us an email – – and let us know! We’ll come back and update this blog with those new suggestions.

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