By Andrew Hawk
The day-to-day shuffle of teaching can be mentally exhausting. Many teachers need the summer to recharge so they can come back to school refreshed. However, teachers can do a lot to get ready for the upcoming school year while they are recharging. Here are a few simple preparations to help the next school year get off to a great start.
Research your class list.
Class lists are usually not communicated to parents and students until close to the start of the school year. However, they are often prepared well in advance of the official release. If class lists are prepared early at your school, jump on the opportunity to obtain yours as soon as possible. Once you have obtained your class list, research your new students using whatever tools you have at your disposal. If you have access to students’ cumulative files, check for past grades, allergies, or exceptionalities. If you feel comfortable reaching out to students’ past teachers, have a conversation about the students’ learning styles. Any information you can gather will help you prepare to meet the needs of your new class or classes.
Reflect on the previous year.
Did you ever spend a lot of time planning a unit only to have it turn out to be ineffective? I know I have. This can be a major disappointment for teachers. Use your extra time now to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Then make the necessary adjustments.
Plan a new unit.
Planning every detail of a unit without knowing your students’ ability levels and learning styles is difficult. Even if you research your class list, there is no way to know if or to what degree students will regress over the summer. Still, you can plan most of a unit to fit the needs of the majority of your students. Once the school year starts, you can differentiate the material for students who have special needs.
Attend a workshop.
There are some areas in which teachers cannot be overtrained, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), how to use technology in the classroom, classroom management, and how to integrate subjects. Summer is the perfect time to attend a workshop on one of these topics or another topic that interests you.
Read books or articles.
If you cannot find the right workshop, indulge in self-study by reading professional books or journal articles. Set aside twenty to thirty minutes a day solely for this purpose.
Consider a new room arrangement.
A well-planned room arrangement assists with classroom management and instruction. For example, teachers who incorporate a lot of group work often arrange their students’ desks into pods of four or five. It is always important that teachers fight complacency and branch out of their comfort zones: you can do this by considering a new arrangement for your room.
Update your welcome letter.
Students love getting a welcome letter before the beginning of school. It makes them feel special when they receive something in the mail. Parents appreciate the extra effort, too. Take a little time to read and update your welcome letter. You can even print off copies of the letter and stuff them into envelopes. If you have not sent students a welcome letter in the past, use this opportunity to create one.
Declutter your classroom.
Seriously, we do not need to save every scrap of construction paper and half-used workbook. Declutter your room and recycle the unneeded materials.
Plan field trips and guest speakers.
Students of all ages love field trips and guest speakers, and summer is a great time to get a head start on scheduling these special events. Research field trips that will meet educational standards. Email other teachers for ideas for guest speakers. Once the school year starts, it might feel like there is not enough time to do this research.
Collaborate with colleagues.
Teaching is a rare profession: Adults are usually isolated from one another for the majority of the workday. Use the summer to collaborate with your colleagues. Even something as simple as a faculty cookout can lead to bonding, which increases trust, which helps a school function more smoothly.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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