A First Day Of School Guide For College Freshman

An open letter to college freshman tips and advice

Back to school, here we come! August is within sight and this means everyone is preparing to head back to school, whether that’s preschool, high school, or college. 

For me personally, my most nerve-wracking first day of school was my first day of college as a freshman- my very first day walking the sidewalks on campus and navigating the halls of the massive buildings. What if I couldn’t make it across campus in time for my next class? What if I got lost and was late everywhere I was going? I didn’t even think about lunch and I was going to be in class back to back all day! There are so many factors. Let me share with you a few things that I did, and a few that I wished I knew, to hopefully help ease your fears as well. 

Download a map of the campus. Back in 2013 when I started college, I actually held a physical map of campus in my hands, but I was also one of the last few on Earth that didn’t own a smartphone. Regardless, they still were not amazing quality, so I was not alone in holding a physical map of campus. 

Have the map downloaded to your phone so that when you need to leave the Business building and make it to the Biology building 10 minutes later, you’ll know the best route. You won’t need the map forever! But navigating a new campus (especially if it’s quite large!) can be incredibly helpful. It can also be a good idea to mark where your classes are if you have the ability to draw on the map. 

Think about lunchtime. In high school, lunchtime is carved out and the cafeteria is well stocked with food. In college, it’s up to you and only you. Look at your class schedule and decide if you can make a quick trip home for a bite, or if you need to look into options of packing a lunch, or finding a dining hall on campus. It’s hard to sit through classes and learn when you’re hungry! 

Wear good shoes. College campuses can be quite large and require a great amount of walking between buildings and classes. Keep this in mind when choosing shoes to wear. Save the fancy kicks for a night out and pull out the tennis shoes for classes. A jacket is also a great clothing item to pack. Some classrooms can be boiling hot, while others are freezing cold. There’s not always a lot of consistency. 

Snacks and water bottles. This could depend on the building and teacher protocols, but in the majority of classes, you can snack while you are in class. Keep a good stash in your backpack of good, healthy snacks. And bring a water bottle, especially for those longer classes. 

Don’t buy books right away. You can read more tips on college textbooks here. But it’s a good practice to wait until after the first day of class to purchase books. This gives you the chance to attend class first and determine the best route for purchasing your textbook, and knowing if you need it or not. 

Be prepared to take notes. In college, typically the first day of class isn’t a “get to know you” and take an easy day. What you can expect is the professor taking a few minutes to go over the syllabus, letting you know what to expect from the class, telling you about resources the T.A.’s might have, and then jumping straight into coursework. So come prepared to take notes and learn. 

The syllabus is incredibly important- save it. They are not something to just roll your eyes at and toss in recycling on your way out! They are your roadmap to this class. It should tell you the expectations, rules, and assignments for the semester. These important dates in the syllabus such as deadlines and tests are great information to put into your planner so you know when they are coming up and can prepare. 

The Child Whisperer: Type Three

This post is part of a series on The Child Whisperer and using it in the classroom. To see more, head here.

Alright, it’s time to talk about Type Three of the child whisperer! For The Child Whisperer types, it’s important to remember that this is not just personality typing, it’s channeling in on a child’s energy and how they use their energy. Most everyone has all four types in them, but one or two shine through the most in the majority of situations. 

Type three is typically known as “The Determined Child.” A type three’s primary connection to the world is through being physical in some way, and their primary need is to have support from loved ones as they experience new things. 

Words that describe type two: busy, physical, energetic, forward thinkers.  

Tips for teaching a type three: 

Consistency is huge for a type three child. And so is pushing them out of their comfort zone! They may take some coaxing sometimes, but typically once they are given the support to try something new or big, they take off with it and shoot for the stars! 

Oftentimes a type three child can forget who is in charge and need to be reminded. Their big, bold personalities take over and they try to step in and take charge when they can. 

They will be your students rushing through work and then buzzing off to the next assignment, task, or even next activity that might get them in trouble! Staying busy is what they need most, even if they cannot communicate that to you. 

Do you have a type three child in your classroom? What have you learned through teaching this type of student? 

A #TeacherMom Quandary: To Go Back or Stay Home?

substitute teacher quandry

Current life quandary: do I disrupt the delicate balance of being a mom with a work-from-home job to help in the community in a very understaffed job? Or continue this delicate life balance that we as a family have finally figured out and dismiss the job? 

Basically, what it comes down to, is that our community (and I’m positive the majority of the nation right now) is severely understaffed in regards to substitute teachers. With the fear of teaching in schools during COVID last year and the lack of teachers in general, it created a large gap that needed to be filled. This year may not be as hectic as last year, but regardless, they are still understaffed and struggling. 

My quandary comes with trying to continue my at-home work (this blog and our running scholarship), while still maintaining my status of a stay-at-home mom. While still feeling a pull to also throw “substitute teacher” on my stack of to-dos. I’ve had plenty of past experience subbing and I genuinely enjoyed it, but at what cost would it come to the rest of my responsibilities I need to maintain? 

I’m also feeling a big pull that I owe it to our community to be there for these teachers and students in their time of need. Is commitment to my community enough reason to take on something like this? 

All of these thoughts have been racing through my mind over the last several weeks as the first day of school slowly creeps closer and closer. 

I still have not decided which route to take yet and I will probably stew over this question every day until school starts. If you were faced with this decision, what would you choose? What would help you make your decision? 

College Study Tips

Hey college students, school is starting sooner than the majority of us are hoping. So that means we need to kick it into gear and start preparing for what’s to come. Which means- studying! And a lot of it! Here are my best study tips for you this back-to-school season. 

-Take breaks. Yes, right off the bat I think this is one of the most important points. It’s important to take breaks while studying in order to stay productive with your time. Too much time hitting the books and running through homework problems will cause you to become unproductive with your time. 

There are recommended times for studying/ taking breaks, such as 50 minutes of studying, 10-minute break, repeat. When I spend time studying, I try to be intuitive about it. I look for signs in my body that I need a break, take some time to eat, walk, etc., and then go back to studying. This is what helps me feel most productive. 

-Find study rooms. For those times when you need to buckle down and really go over the material before that big midterm coming up, look into a study room. Typically they can be found in your campus library. They can be more useful to have the ability to focus during studying than your college dorm can be. 

-Use colorful pens. Even if you’re not into adding the rainbow into your notes, just try grabbing a blue and black pen. Switching up ink colors can be so helpful to the mind when taking and reading notes. One reason is when only one color is used, the mind just focuses on the words and can tend to zone out. With multiple colors and even writing in different directions or in pictures, the mind has to work harder to interpret the information, internalizing it better. 

-Sticky notes can be your friend. Whether it’s to jot down information that you don’t permanently need in your book or notebook, or keep an important tab on a page, they can play a great role in studying! 

-Don’t underestimate the reading. It’s easy to brush off assigned readings because let’s be honest, academic reading is hard! But don’t underestimate them. They come with valuable information needed for tests and it can be a little easier with our tips for getting through academic readings.

-Enlist a study buddy. There’s a really good chance there is someone else in your class also studying for the same test. You can go so much further by working together with a study buddy to get through the information and learn from each other in the process. This is also a great reason to look into getting a study room, as noted above. 

-Look into study/tutoring groups. Sometimes in classes, the teacher’s assistant will offer study groups or review sessions outside of class to go over the material again. For me, it was extremely helpful to hear the material taught from two different perspectives. Although it’s the same information coming across, everyone has their own way of teaching it, and hearing it in different ways could bring you more success.  

The Child Whisperer: Type Two

This post is part of a series on The Child Whisperer and using it in the classroom. To see more, head here.

Alright, it’s time to talk about Type Two of the child whisperer! For The Child Whisperer types, it’s important to remember that this is not just personality typing, it’s channeling in on a child’s energy and how they use their energy. Most everyone has all four types in them, but one or two shine through the most in the majority of situations. 

Type two is typically known as “The Sensitive Child.” A type two’s primary connection to the world is through emotion, and their primary need is for their feelings and emotions to be heard as well as feeling a connection to their family and loved ones. 

Words that describe type two: emotional, subtle, thoughtful, sensitive. 

Tips for teaching a type two: 

Create a good, lasting relationship with the student. It will be hard for them to learn from you without a good relationship first. 

Two’s need a plan and time to process everything going on around them. They may become anxious when last-minute plans come up or their regular school schedule is changed for the day. 

They are your students taking as long as possible on assignments, tests, and readings. They take all of the time possible to internalize what they are doing and the information they are given. 

They are also the students that like to ask you step-by-step how to go through processes they are learning. And not only that, but they may ask multiple times! 

Type two’s are little emotional chameleons. They easily take on the emotions of others, whether that’s pain, anger, sadness, or happiness, light-hearted, or excitement. 

Do you have a type two child in your classroom? What have you learned through teaching this type of student? 

Get to Know You Games for Back to School

We are officially on the countdown here for school starting in the fall! However, since we start mid-August, that’s technically late summer… Needless to say, school prep is in full swing at our house with my daughter starting preschool in 6 short weeks and myself trying to decide (just like every year) if I want to substitute teach a few days here and there. 

With going back to school also comes “get to know you games” that I am certain each teacher starts googling as they get closer and closer to that first day of school. Well never fear, I have a list here of great get-to-know-you games that you can pull out for students to get to know each other, and for YOU to get to know them. 

Would You Rather

Materials: A list of “would you rather” questions. 

How to play: Come up with, or even google search, a list of “would you rather” questions. These are questions like “Would you rather eat only vegetables all day, or only fruits all day?” or “Would you rather have indoor or outdoor recess?” You can come up with your own questions that you’re genuinely curious about, or find silly ones online! 

For them to tell you their decision, they choose a side of the room. You determine which side is which for each question, and the students all move to that side of the room to choose their answer. You can determine if you want the middle of the room to be “neutral” or if they MUST choose a side and cannot remain neutral. 

Drop The Cloth

Materials: A big blanket or sheet, not see-through and fairly wide.

How to play: Split the class into two teams. Choose two students as your “helpers.” These students can be swapped out throughout the game to make sure everyone has a chance to play. Create a line in the middle of the floor either with the blanket or a long piece of tape, and have the two teams sit on either side of the line, on the floor. Your two helpers will lift up the blanket, creating a barrier between the two teams so that they cannot see each other. Choose one person from each team to move forward and sit right in front of the blanket. On the count of three, the helpers drop the blanket and the two chosen students have to race to say the other student’s name before the other person. Whichever student says the opposite student’s name first, wins a point. Bonus, you as the teacher jump in with one of the teams to see how many names you can remember! 

How to win: You can either say “first to _____ points wins” or play as long as the game naturally goes, or until every student has a turn, and see which team has the most points in the end.

Snowball Fight

Age range: 2nd grade- high school (or once your entire class can read fairly well.) 

Materials: Plenty of paper, a large open space (a classroom can work fine, but somewhere like the gym or field outside can be better). 

How to play: Write out one “get to know you” question for each sheet of paper. You’ll need at least one question per child, but having 10-15 more is also beneficial to have a good variety of questions. You can either write these out yourself or if your students are older, you can have them submit their own get to know you questions. 

A distinct divider will need to be in the middle of the space you are playing in, whether that be a line on the gym floor or a strip of tape on the classroom floor. Divide your class into two teams and dump the crumpled pieces of paper into the middle of the floor. Give the students 30 seconds to a minute to then throw the “snowballs” across the room to the other team. 

*A great rule to have in place for this game is to only throw one snowball at a time. Don’t learn this the hard way as I did! 

Their goal is to have the least amount of snowballs on their side of the room when the timer goes off. Once the timer goes off, every student takes a seat where they are standing and grabs the nearest snowball to them. Then they uncrumple a piece of paper and answer the question to the class. Bonus if they say their name before answering the question! Go around the room until each student has read a question. If time permits, reset the game and play again! 

How to win: Whichever team has the least amount of snowballs on their side when the game ends, wins! You can do one round, or the best one out of three, three out of five, etc. This is also a great game for students to practice their listening skills as you quickly go around having students answer the questions. 

Two Truths and a Lie

How to play: Each student must come up with two truths and one lie about themselves. They can be provided with a paper to write them down if you feel like they will forget by the time the game is around to them. They’ll say the two truths and one lie out loud to the class in whatever order they would like, and the rest of the class has to determine which one is the lie. Here is an example.

I love orange juice. (lie)

My favorite color is blue. (truth)

I traveled to the Oregon coast this summer. (truth)

Go around the room until every student has had an opportunity to say their own two truths and a lie. 

How to win: This can be a simple “get to know you” activity where it’s just all fun and games with no winner. Or you can play individually where each person tracks their own points. Another way is to break the class into groups and have each of them decide together what the lie is, to bring in a little teamwork! And then keep score to see how many each group gets correct. 

Roll the Ball

Materials: A small ball 

How to play: The whole class sits in a circle. The teacher starts by rolling the ball across the circle to a student and asks the student a get to know you question. 

*Tip- sample questions can be written upon the board for students if they need to reference them. 

The student catches the ball, states their name, and answers the question. Then this student rolls the ball across the circle to a different student, repeating the process. Go until each has had a turn to answer questions.

What I Wish I Would Have Done Differently in College

Looking back on my college days, I feel like I made some great academic and social decisions, but I also made some mistakes that I learned from as I went along. Here are some of the things I wish I would have done differently during my college career.

I wish I would have asked for more help. Whether that be from professors, from my roommates, or even from my parents. There were things I needed help with that I was never confident enough to ask someone typically because I felt like I had to be my own, independent person now that I was in college. That’s not true! Ask for help. 

I wish I would have built deeper relationships with my professors, especially the ones further on in my major. I often was one to walk into class, do the assignments, take the notes, and then walk out on my way to my next class. I never stayed after to chat or have deeper conversations about the subject matter. Professors are not only there to help you, but they can also be incredible resources for networking. 

I wish I would have asked a lot of questions. Again, I wasn’t one for being actively involved in my classes. But I wish I would have been. I wish I would have actually asked those deeper questions that I was wondering about but never relaying to my teachers. 

I wish I would have taken the readings more seriously. Assigned readings just felt like a chore, but later on, in my major-specific classes, I realized too late that the readings were actually there to help me learn, understand deeper, and have information to take me into my career someday. Better yet, I wish I would have saved some of these readings to use later on. 

I wish I would have had more fun. I spent a lot of time studying and doing homework, and yes! That’s a very good thing! But every once in a while, I wish I would have put off an assignment for a day so I could be social as well. Because college is more than just getting a degree! It’s about who you meet and the experiences you’ve had. 

What do you wish you would have done differently in college?