6 Things You Must Do On The First Day Of School

You have one opportunity to start your school year on the right classroom management foot, one shot to propel your first day of school into the best learning experience your students have ever had.

You can’t afford to leave it to chance. You can’t afford to be unprepared, uninspired, or unfocused. You can’t afford to be anything other than on top of your game. For a lasting first impression will set the tone for the rest of the school year.

It will set the tone for behavior, work habits, respect, responsibility, camaraderie, and so much more. Thus, your first day of school should reflect your vision of a dream class. It should reflect who you are, what you expect, and what it means to be a member of your special classroom.

It should stir in your students the desire to become more or better or somehow different than when they walked through your door.

What follows are six things that, when infused with your passion and conviction, and sprinkled with a dose of your wonderful imperfection, will make your first day of school one your students won’t soon forget.

1. Make a connection.

Building rapport begins the moment your students lay eyes on you. Greet them with a smile and let them know in no uncertain terms that you’re glad they’re a member of your class and now part of a unique community.

Your initial friendliness and open, welcoming heart will put them at ease and spark an immediate desire to please you, follow your lead, and pay forward your kindness throughout the classroom.

2. Set a tone of excellence.

After just a few introductory remarks, send the message that you expect excellence in everything they do by showing your students how you expect them to enter the classroom in the morning. Make it highly detailed, demonstrating every precious step.

This first routine, when taught with depth and precision, and then practiced successfully, paves the way for all other routines to be learned quickly and thereafter performed with excellence.

3. Have some fun.

Whether it’s a getting to know you game, a rollicking story of your youth, or just your everyday humor, be sure your students see, and experience, that being in your classroom also means having fun.

It’s key to not only their motivation and attentiveness and instilling a love for learning, but it also affords you the leverage and influential presence to ask for and expect hard work, respect, and kind behavior . . . and get exactly that from your students.

4. Make a promise.

By now your students will be buzzing with the understanding that yours is no ordinary classroom. The startling expectations, the joyful learning, and the quiet thrill in their heart is evidence enough that it’s going to be a remarkable year.

They are now primed to hear from you a most important promise, a promise that will largely determine your and their success. You’re going to promise them that you will protect their special community, that you will protect their right to learn and enjoy school.

5. Fulfill your promise.

When students understand its true purpose—that is, a safeguard against interruptions, disrespect, name-calling, etc.—your classroom management plan takes on a whole new meaning. Rather than being viewed as a negative, it will be seen for what it is: a means to preserve their love of school.

Teach your plan, not as a hard-edged disciplinarian, but as one who cares enough about their education to defend it to the hilt. Although you’ll spend parts of the rest of the week modeling and practicing your plan, a detailed overview on the first day is a must.

6. Dive headlong into academics.

Establish from the get-go that your classroom is in the business of learning by diving into a challenging academic lesson (or two or three) on the first day of school. Be sure, however, that it’s spot-on—high interest, participatory, leaving no doubt as to what you want your students to know and to do.

Their success understanding and then performing your first academic objective is crucial to their confidence going forward, setting the stage for limitless improvement.

Beautiful Imperfection

Although the six items above won’t be all you’ll do on the first day of school, they are the most important. It’s a mistake, though, to assume that because they’re important, you have to be perfect. You don’t—far from it.

Have your content, your objectives, and the overall tone of the day pictured clearly in your mind, but allow yourself room to mess up, to stumble over your words (or the trash bin you forgot was behind your desk), and to pause and consider what to say next.

In this way, your natural, influence-building charisma will shine through. So let go of any and all pressure to be perfect—self-imposed or otherwise. Let go of the what-ifs and the negative trains of thought. Let go of the performancism.

Take a long, slow, deep breath and exhale it all out into the ether, saying goodbye forever.

Just be you.

Your students will love you for it.

Note: The Classroom Management Secret is now available for Kindle e-readers. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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26 Responses to 6 Things You Must Do On The First Day Of School

  1. Carlos August 13, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    I’m sharing this in class tomorrow. Good article. Less technical and more on practical. Philippine Normal University Manila Philippines. Thanks for uploading. I owe this wonderful connection a lot (the internet) for leading me to awesome people like you.

    • Michael Linsin August 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      You’re welcome, Carlos! Glad you found us.


  2. Lauren September 4, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I’m 18 years old and in 10 days time I am moving to West Africa for a year where I will teach English and German to large classes of teenagers in several schools. Your site has been extremely valuable to me in my preparation for teaching next year, and I feel much more ready to face my classes on my first ever day of teaching thanks to your practical advice.

    I look forward the receiving the updates by email!

    Thanks again.

    • Michael Linsin September 4, 2013 at 6:21 am #

      That’s wonderful, Lauren! What an adventure. Congratulations and good luck! You’ll do great. 🙂


  3. Shama June 5, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Michael

    I am doing my practicum in a year 3 class n I am finding it very hard to control them..can you give me some ideas as to how to control them from the morning so that they listen to me and there’s no behaviour problems.

    • Michael Linsin June 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

      Hi Shama,

      Your question is what our site is all about. I recommend that you spend some time in our archive, starting in the Classroom Management Plan category and going from there. I think you’ll find what you’re looking for.


  4. Niyah Gaddy August 4, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    Hi. My name us Niyah and I will be going to a middle school and I wanted to known how to give myself a good impression and this is just great( even though its for teachers) I will use it all the time.


    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2014 at 6:57 am #

      You’re welcome, Niyah!


  5. new teacher August 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Thanks for your articles. Everyone keeps telling me to be stern but I am not type A at all and worry about that tremendously. I am at the high school level. I was told the kids will test me because I am in a new region etc. I will read and follow you advice.

  6. Emily Young July 27, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

    Thank you as always for your insightful and practical posts. As a middle school teacher of sixty-minute classes, do you have a specific recommendation for what all to include on that first day/week since I’m only with each group of kids for a short time? Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin July 28, 2015 at 7:07 am #

      Hi Emily,

      I recommend just a shorter version of the six items above. No more, no less. 🙂


  7. Doris July 16, 2016 at 9:17 am #

    Crazy but I can not wait for school to start and it is mid July. I am so grateful that I found your sight. I am sharing this sight and suggesting our admin gets the books.

  8. Karen August 9, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi Michael… I’ve been a high school Physics and Biology teacher for over 20 years. Classroom management never used to be a problem. I think because I was young and easy going and students would respond positively to my requests for good behaviour and work. I’ve often received feedback from students who say that they loved the atmosphere but that I let some students get away with too much.

    As I get further into my career I have been finding that students need more concrete criteria in order to maintain their work ethic. Last year I felt ready to leave teaching…. The students were behaving so badly…. But out of desperation I googled it… I knew it was my fault and that I needed to change what I was doing…. and found your website!! I have adapted your strategies to work for high school students and I have seen such improvement…. as long as I follow the rules!! I have to be committed to that. I’ve just been so casual for so long. But I know I need to do it… For me and most especially for the students. They all deserve a positive and productive learning environment!! I know it will work.

    Thank you so much for your information. Please continue with email newsletters! They keep reminding me of what I need to do.

    • Michael Linsin August 10, 2016 at 8:09 am #

      It’s my pleasure, Karen. Once you get into the habit of being consistent, it will only get better and better. It will also free you up to be more easygoing.


  9. Virginia Angela Cano August 11, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    Thank you for the articles you sent. It is very helpful to me. Good guides for classroom management.

    • Michael Linsin August 11, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

      You’re welcome Virginia!


  10. Barbara Comstock-King August 12, 2016 at 5:28 am #

    Thank you so much for your site! I have been reading all of it and even though I have been teaching general and choral music for 20 years, I see so many areas I can improve! I have a question regarding implementing the classroom management plan. I have the same students often for 3 years in a row. This year, as I implement this plan, I know it will be hardest for the 8th grade students to adjust to the changes. They are used to talking too much (and I’ve been doing all the wrong things to get them to stop!). I know I will have many warnings, time-outs, and calls home in the first few weeks, but do you have any other strategies for getting students used to a new way of doing things? Thanks for all of your great content!

    • Michael Linsin August 12, 2016 at 9:10 am #

      Hi Barbara,

      I highly recommend The Smart High School Classroom Management Plan for your eighth grade students. For more info, just click the green bar at the top of the page.


      • Barbara Comstock-King August 24, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

        Thank you. I appreciate the older approach in your high school book.

        • Michael Linsin August 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

          You’re welcome, Barbara!


  11. Gulnaz Usman August 20, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you Michael for your wonderful suggestions and strategies that you have shared.

    • Michael Linsin August 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

      It’s my pleasure, Gulnaz.


  12. Sara September 3, 2016 at 2:32 am #

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you very much for this article! I teach in a private school, and there will be a one week school holiday right in the second week of the school. A senior colleague at the school advised me not to jump into the academics the first week, as most students will not come the first week anyways. She said that most of the teachers here don’t jump into academics the first week, and the students don’t expect it. She also reasoned that I will get a lot of requests to Go over things again in the Third week of classes (after the holidays). She asked just spending the first week on classroom management and ice-breakers, said all other teachers will be doing this. This goes against your suggestions to dive into the academics the first day. I would love to jump into it as you said. Have done it in the past with great results. If I drag the first week, it is unfair to students who do come. But if there is indeed a local culture of things not getting serious until after the holidays, what should I do? I would appreciate your advice.

    Best regards,

    • Michael Linsin September 3, 2016 at 8:02 am #

      Hi Sara,

      I think it’s always best to get started learning on the very first day.


  13. Florence October 19, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    I have a tough question for you (though you’re used to it I guess!).

    How do you teach your rules (e.g. model the way you expect them to enter the classroom) on the very first day, if you are faced with a group that keeps talking & chatting ALL THE TIME, almost from the very first minute ?
    To get a good start and explain them what I expect from them, I need silence.
    So what if you don’t get silence at first?
    Can you apply a consequence you haven’t had time to explain? Can you apply it to 10 students at the same time?

    I would not say that I have ‘lost control’ of the classroom. I actually never had any control over that classroom at all, and from the very beginning. My colleagues cannot provide any advice, they are all faced with the same difficulties.

    Last year I tried to apply your techniques (from your book for PE & Arts teachers) to my students, but the constant babbling never ceased. I had to send letters to practically all the parents, who did not care at all. Only in one school out of five did your technique work, and I noticed it was the school where the social environment was best (with parents interested in their kids’ results).

    So my main question is: how do you get SILENCE ?
    I read your book. But modelling & explaining requires attentive students. What would you do if you had babbling students from the beginning? Not interested in your rules?

    Thanks a lot,

    • Michael Linsin October 19, 2016 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Florence,

      You’re missing something, no doubt about it. But in order for me to get to the bottom of it, I would have to speak with you. There is a cost involved, but you may want to consider personal coaching. In the meantime, as for your first question and through your second paragraph, I’ve written about these topics extensively here on the website. The archive is along the bottom sidebar and the Search function is on the right side of the menu bar.


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