I once had a principal who absolutely refused to allow teachers to be at school after 5:00 PM on the last Saturday before school started. Sunday trips were verboten. This is good policy; I don't think people realize how nervous teachers are starting a new school year. The tension grows through interminable "professional development" sessions a few days before school starts. This is the worst time to have any kind of professional development; teachers are too preoccupied. There is a great deal of list-making and classroom mapping in these workshops; teachers with laptops compose "Welcome to My Classroom!" letters on the sly. I find it difficult both to sit still and to remember orally-given information without some kind of hands-on element, so I generally try to bring a bunch of laminated things to cut - it's mindless, yet focusing.
Teachers are stressed out and eat too much boxed lunch at the break, so to keep them awake presenters invariably break out the candy in the afternoon. It's downhill from there.
I've heard of all kinds of centering, stress-lowering activities for teacher work days. Personally, my stress is not lowered by anything other than getting my classroom in order so I skip the yoga and whatnot. On the other hand, one year I was so nervous on the first day of summer school (new grade, unfamiliar school building, forty two kids on my roster) that I washed but did not rinse my hair.
Anyway, I do like to focus on BIG GOALS for the year. These are not the BIG GOALS in the management textbook sense, nor in the Teach for America sense. I have been teaching for a long time now. We do not have new standards this year nor any new curricula. I do want to develop my practice, and I do that by making some plans every year - things I want to try, subjects I want to teach differently, management techniques I would like to use more effectively, etc. It is not as important to me that I see each of these ideas through; some things end up not working out simply because I cannot maintain them successfully. I just want to make sure I reflect on what happened and see what I learned from it.
Last year, my big push was teaching thematically and I think I pulled this off reasonably well. It led to a lot of long projects taking many days. These can be hard for me; they require organization and planning. So it was an important development area for me personally, and I think the learning payoff was big. Students seemed to have more patience and more willing to keep working on things; for instance, by the end of the year students were willing to spend 90 minutes weaving a basket (with music, conversation and short breaks, of course) and "sewing bees" were popular at art time. And I think the content integration was useful, too. In the past, I've worked to integrate more sensory stuff and to actively teach cooperation.
For this year, I have some very specific learning goals for motor development. I failed penmanship (left-handed, ADHD) in school and am not a stickler for it now. I think it's destructive; my students struggling with illegibility put so much energy into neatness that they have nothing left for content. I do want to provide experiences that will build hand-eye coordination and fine motor control and to be very explicit why these are important. I also want to experiment with teaching letter formation; I am the happy inheritor of a bunch of Handwriting Without Tears stuff that looks promising.