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How I'm preparing for that first day of school

I've been stressing over the start of the year for a number of weeks now. But this school year is a whole new animal. Teachers everywhere feel as though they are back to square one, as if this is their first year teaching, as if we have to recreate the wheel.

Where normally I have the entire first semester planned by now, I have been struggling to plan through the end of the first quarter, which is when we are scheduled to transition to hybrid learning from remote learning. My biggest stressor lately though has been how am I going to build a rapport with new students that I cannot even meet face to face?

I've researched articles and posted this question on teacher forums and have come up with some ideas. I am still going to add to these ideas, but I think what I have is a start. Today, I made a list of what methods I wanted to use to make connections with my new high schoolers. I find that making lists helps to destress one's mind. Having something written down and then taking one thing at a time makes a larger problem manageable.

There are three things that I am currently working on for that first week to build a strong rapport. Today, I made ecards for all students who had summer birthdays on, and I sent them to them dated for Sept. 1 (since the students start back Aug. 31). In the card, I wished the student a happy summer birthday and awarded them a few points extra credit that they could use at their time of choosing.

This is something that I've been wanting to do for some time, but I figured with the online format, this will be the perfect positive way to connect with the students. I plan on sending cards to every student and the hope is that it will make them feel appreciated and teach them to set the points aside for a rainy day.

I also created two separate Google Form surveys today: one for students and one for parents. The students' form asks them basic get to know you questions such as "What do you do for fun?" and "Who is your favorite band/artist and why?" I'm undecided right now if I will send that to them before school starts or just have them complete it on the first day of school. I'd then like it if each student shares something from their survey.

The parents' form consists of more straightforward questions such as, "Is there anything you'd like me to know about your student?" and "What's the best way to reach you?" Having a parent/guardian survey is just as important to me as having a student one. I want the parents and guardians to know that during these difficult times, we are all in this together.

Lastly, I would like to create a video that explains to students and parents a little bit about myself, what to expect from the class and year, and supply them with necessary information that will help them succeed, such as a reminder about Google Classroom use.

I am still mulling over other ways to engage students, specifically during that first week. But this is a start. And that's better than where I was at yesterday.

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