The Back-to-School Traditions Teachers Swear By

By Hayley Hardison — August 12, 2022 1 min read
Young students running to the school building for classes.
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The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted a myriad of school routines—for both students and educators—over the past three years. In most school districts, the first day of the 2019-20 school year looked a lot different from the first day of the 2020-21 school year.

With nearly all educators headed back to in-person schooling this fall, it’s an opportunity to return to some of those traditions—and perhaps begin some new ones.

As educators head back into classrooms, we asked them to share their traditions to kick off the school year.

“Massive quantities of coffee and doughnuts”


“I’ll watch Mr. Holland’s Opus. Some of those scenes are so powerful.”


“Having teachers ask parents to respond in writing what would make it their child’s ‘best year ever’. A simple request that often gives the teacher insights into who the child is and how to best ‘connect’ with him or her. Also starts building the teacher-parent relationship.”


“I love to watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor before each school year to remind me why I work with small kids.”


“One of many, this one is a bit more work (probably best for smaller classes, ie elementary homeroom teacher) but has multiple positive effects: I set up a cheerful background and take a photo of each student with a sign indicating the start of the grade. I send the photo directly to each family so the first individual communication home about a student is positive and celebratory. At the end of the year I take the matching end of year photo and send this to families too (along with a side by side version). The kids love to see how they’ve changed over the year and it complements our end-of-year reflections as learners. 📸 ✨”

Jeane Lakin

“Start a class time capsule the first day or week and keep it to open on the last day of the school year.”

Smiling Students Lesson Plans

“Community building activities that build SEL skills and peer relationships. Also, social contracts.”

Jackie Dipzinski

Check out EdWeek’s customized back-to-school reading list for more fresh ideas, advice, and inspiration to charge into the 2022-23 school year.


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