How To Overcome The Overwhelm Of Back To School For Primary Teachers

Dear Lesson Plan Toolbox,

I am a first year teacher and I will be teaching second grade. I am feeling very overwhelmed right now because there’s so much I need to do before my students arrive. My room isn’t ready. I don’t have a class roster. I don’t even know how many students to expect. I’ve just barely grazed over the curriculum so I’m sure that’s a whole other task in itself.

I have done plenty of shopping and I do have a vision for what I want my classroom to look like so I guess that’s a plus. Unfortunately, the school building is closed until August 9 which means I’ll really only have about a week to get organized. That doesn’t seem like enough time at all.

I’m hoping if I can get some clarity on what to tackle first that the rest will fall into place. I’m trying to figure out what I can work on at home so I can at least get a couple of things accomplished before the building opens.

If you have any ideas or can steer me towards the right path I would love to hear. I truly hope that every year doesn’t feel this overwhelming or I might have to find a new career.

Thanks so much for your time,

Overly Overwhelmed


Dear Overly Overwhelmed,

It is rather ironic that I would be receiving this email today because I too am in much the same boat, but am keeping the feelings of teacher overwhelm at bay. Although this isn’t my first year of teaching (actually I’m heading into year 19), I am starting a brand new grade level at a brand new school. So I’ll share with you what I’m focusing on now because I’m determined to enjoy these last few days of summer.


Remember that it will ALL get done

First and foremost, when that feeling of teacher overwhelm sneaks up on you try to remember that it will all get done. Your students are coming on the first day of school ready or not. This may sound easier said than done, but it’s true. It’s okay if your classroom is still a work in progress because you’re going to have all year to tweak things. This was probably some of the best advice I received from a veteran teacher my first year.


Decide on your classroom setup

Classroom setup can be one of the most time consuming pieces when you’re setting up your classroom. If you can sketch out your ideas that will be a great starting place. Determine how the desks will be arranged, where you will position your teacher desk, the location of your classroom library, and how you will store your center materials. Lucie Renard has great templates and descriptions to help you get started.


Classroom management plan is key

Let’s repeat that one more time because it’s oh so very important! Your classroom management plan is going to be the key to a successful school year. This doesn’t just mean giving students Dojo points, punch cards, or classroom money. Classroom management is all about how you will manage your classroom. From the tiniest of tasks such as passing out and collecting papers to the larger tasks of lining up when leaving the classroom. Tammy (@theowlteacher) offers easy to understand classroom management ideas

The biggest reminder we would like to reiterate is to not get caught up in all the fads you’ll see when searching Instagram and Pinterest. Focus on routines and procedures as you’re first starting out.


Ask for the curriculum 

One of the biggest fears that a lot of new teachers have is asking questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything! You’re new, so it would be worrisome if you didn’t have questions. However, definitely be sure to ask your admin for your curriculum. This is something that you can review at home and start to get ideas for your lessons. Being that you can’t get into the building, try emailing your admin and ask if there is a link to a document that could be sent. Believe it or not, many admins do check their emails even when they’re not in the building.


Plan the first two weeks

With any luck you will hear back from your admin in no time. Once you do, then begin to map out your first two weeks in the classroom. Really focus on modeling routines and procedures these first two weeks. You may not get very deep into the actual curriculum and that’s okay. Dabble with review topics that your students are familiar with already. If you need filler items, always have a couple picture books on hand for read alouds. 

Do your best to focus on teaching 21st century learning styles. This may sound tricky, but it’s really not and you will actually see your student engagement begin to increase. Perhaps try designating one day a week to STEM/STEAM instruction. Wait until you see how fast the school year flies by!


Decide how you will communicate with parents

Parent communication is crucial when developing a rapport with families. You want to keep them in the loop about what's going on not only in your classroom, but with their particular student. Decide how you will communicate with parents each week. Again, be careful not to get too caught up with all of the trends you’ll find if you do a Google search. Keep it simple and something that you’ll be able to execute weekly.


So there you have it… this is a basic plan to get you started on the right track. Remember that you shouldn’t constantly feel overwhelmed. Yes, you’ll have good days and bad days, but if the overwhelm doesn’t go away then you need to reach out for help. In fact, this is one of the main reasons we created Lesson Plan Toolbox.  Please know that we are just an email ([email protected]) or DM away.

Time Saving Hacks For The New Year:

*Designate 3 areas in your room to have your students’ names displayed (names on desks, lockers, and display board)

*Make name tags at home (and no they don’t HAVE to be laminated unless you have time)

*Use numbers instead of student names when labeling 

*Leave space on the walls or bulletin board for student work

*Don’t feel as though you have laminate everything 

*Have students help you create your classroom contract/rules


Don’t forget to grab your FREEBIE!



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