Back to School – Top 10 checklist

Back to school - top 10

Download the checklist

#1 Software and Hardware

Check that all the computers work in any classrooms that you teach in. After turning all the machines on, log in with a student account (for a real student). Is all the software available that you need? Does it all load with license keys? Now check the same for your teacher computer, along with the projector and printer. You need to check all this first as the IT support are probably very busy.

#2 Timetable

Make sure you get your timetable as soon as you can. Once you’ve recovered from how much you have to teach (or got excited that you have some nice classes), get organised. Either put the lessons into your teacher planner – or even better put them into recurring events in an online calendar such as Outlook or Google. The advantage of this is that your phone or tablet can instantly sync with them and tell you what you’re doing at any point during the school day. A couple of hours doing this will save you many more hours through the year.

#3 Classlists

Get your classlists and then add them to any online systems such as VLEs, Learning Platforms or homework sites (or make sure an administrator has done this). Now make sure that you have got the names into your markbook.

#4 Markbook

You can do this on a VLE, a spreadsheet or on paper. Whichever system you use, make sure it is sustainable. Also, imagine that you are writing a report or about to go to a parent’s evening – what information would you like at your fingertips?

Ideas include: attendance (if your MIS doesn’t do this), homework marks, commendations, detentions, lateness, percentages, grades and comments for projects.

If you use Moodle, check out the rubrics for marking as, although complicated, these will save you hours of marking time.

#5 Rules

Make sure you have your rules sorted in your head. Keep them easy to understand for students.

My first school had the following general rules which have worked for almost every behaviour incident and are unbelievably easy to remember:

  1. Work hard
  2. Be nice
  3. No excuses

Extra rules in a Computer Science classroom:

  1. If you get stuck, ask at least two other people before asking me
  2. Make an effort to solve problems by persisting or finding online help before asking me
  3. You can drink water in lessons, but only if you stand by the door away from the computers

#6 Prepare first lessons

Whatever your teaching style, the first lesson is how the students gauge you. You want to transfer a culture with the following features:

  1. Computer Science lessons = lots of effort/work
  2. Your teaching is professional and organised

This is one time when powerpoint may be a good idea as students will be used to it. Personally, I spend about 10 mins on rules and handouts and then get to some real work. Most students I have taught are often bored of the 10th lesson of rules and course summaries.

#7 Get handouts and course materials printed

In order to look organised and professional, you need any resources printed. If you have textbooks get them ready. If you’re going to give PDF workbooks such as these, then ask if reprographics can print them – they will often do a better job and save you time.

#8 Get folders, files or exercise books

GCSE starts this year and has 80% theory. How will your students organise all that learning? If you have lots of worksheets and paper then consider ring binders or paper files.

You will probably also want exercise books. These are great either for formal notes, or simply a place to store ideas, pseudocode and algorithm ideas.

#9 Talk to people

Teachers are some of the most awesome people around. Make sure you give yourself some time to get to know them. If you already know them, then ask them about their holidays.

Think of the IT staff. Whether you love or hate them, they support you. They’re probably busy and stressed right now – how much do you think they would like a cup of tea or a biscuit brought to them?

#10 Get some time off

There is no use working until 1am the night before the students come back. Get some time off and relaxation. You’ll be far better coming into a classroom fresh and with energy than having a slightly better lesson that took you all night.

Do you have any other tips? Post them below.

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