Surviving the 1st Month of School: 20+ Tips & Resources

Many of us will face many new learners in the next few days. Many have already met the individuals we will be making an impact on this year. Starting the school year has always felt like Christmas Eve to me. When I was a kid I could not sleep because I was excited about the day ahead, yet nervous. I think educators should be nervous and excited because we have the mission of guiding the learning journeys of many. Educators will make an impression on their learners; whether, this is a positive or negative impression is up to us. I like to start on a positive note and ensure I choose to walk in my class everyday and positively impact my students. Perhaps, you feel the same but need some inspiration or guidance. I hope the following tips and resources will help you along your journey! Bon Voyage!

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My Survival Tips

  1. Walk in motivated!– you will have the rest of the year to get bogged down, stressed, and in the dumps. What’s wrong with walking in believing you can really make a difference to your learners? I say start optimistically because it is often more difficult to pick yourself up.
  2. Engage parents!– Let’s start  with a positive message about each student instead of a negative message. I like to write emails and send one to each parent with a nice personal note about the student. I also incude information about the school supplies, technology we will use, and more. I also invite them to a parent workshop with food to encourage them to attend. At this workshop we discuss the technology that will be used in the classroom and I ask parents to share ideas to improve the learning environment.
  3. Set-up your classroom to support the various learning styles!
  4. Encourage learners to take part in creating their own learning environments!
    • Have them graffiti on butcher paper on the wall
    • Have them post their inspirational quotes on the wall
    • Have them create bulletin boards
  5. Be preventative and proactive when it comes to managing your classroom!– Doing this will ensure you have less behavioral problems.
  6. Unbind yourself from course books!– You know what your students need to learn so feel free to pick and choose what will work in the book and try having students be the main content creators of materials.
  7. Try a flexible curriculum!– Don’t be glued to your curriculum. Instead, invite parents and students to make decisions about the curriculum. Once students are involved in their learning, they take ownership of their learning.
  8. Reassess assessment!– How will you grade your students? Try a different approach!
  9. Get to Know Your Students! All your students should start with a clean slate. No matter what their past has been, you could be the first individual who has reached out to them. Our toughest students misbehave for a reason and usually are facing something horrific in their lives. Let’s care for them and let them start with a fresh record in our classroom.
  10. Integrate technology effectively!Pedagogy first then technology. When we use technology it should:
    •  support students ownership of learning
    • allow students to be content creators
    • engage and motivate students to be continuous learners
    • support effective communication, especially with peers worldwide
  11. Have fun!– When you enjoy your job your kids have fun learning!

Presentation video:

These tips are from a recent presentation I did for American TESOL. Please feel free to watch the Youtube video:

More Resources

These are more resources to help you:


Try any of these resources or tips with your learners.

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What are your tips for surviving the first day, weeks, and/ or month of school?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. Thanks for a great post Shelly!

    I look forward to taking part in the challenge in about a month from now and hope I can contribute to both yours and Ceci’s ideas on first lessons.

    Much love,


  2. I really like your second tip. Seems like teachers only contact parents when something bad has happened. ONe thing that works for me is finding a little thing that a difficult student does well. Call or email the parent.

    The parent will be so happy to hear that their child is doing well. The child will also be surprised to get positive feedback.

    The next day in child that child will be a model student.

  3. I like your second idea. I find that teachers usually involve the parents when something bad happens.

    I like trying to find something good that a problem student does. Then call or email the parent.

    Both the parent and the child will be so surprised to get positive feedback from a teacher that the student often puffs up with pride and becomes a model student.

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