It’s that time again!
I’ve been busy getting ready to head back to the classroom. The beginning of the school year can be so overwhelming. It’s hard to absorb all the new initiatives, procedures, and information when all you want is time to get ready for students. The ideas that follow will help you make the most of the time you have and get you organized!
- Revise your personal space. If you’re the teacher known for an untraversable desk space, spend some time figuring out a way to manage clutter, papers, and books. Make your space personal (family photo, coffee mug warmer, etc.) and functional. What do you need at an arm’s reach? What do you tend to lose the most, and how can you store it differently? If you’re a pile maker (guilty here!), maybe you can use binder clips to create a system for yourself. If you’re always losing pens (also guilty), try keeping them in a Nalgene on your desk–when I did this, it helped me to grab one at a time and keep track of it. Plus, students are less likely to try to “borrow” your pens when they’re stashed in a closed container.
- Create a student center. Mine is just a bookshelf topped with a bulletin board. I have a pencil cup, a pencil sharpener, tissues, a clock, a calendar, letter trays for submitting work, and information about the current unit.
- Rethink your management. If a colleague had to describe the classroom issue about which you complain the most, what would it be? Cell phones? Side conversations? Late work? It can be easy to be mad at kids when they make bad choices, but this is a good time to reflect on your own role within the issue. If your kids are constantly on their phones but you don’t have a consistently enforced policy, they may feel okay taking their chances. If work is accepted until the end of the grading period, there’s not really a deterrent for turning it in late. This is the perfect time to set yourself up for better classroom management. Maybe it’s something you change about your desk arrangement; maybe you introduce a new procedure. Whatever it is, commit to it.
- Invest in a few tools. One of my hands-down favorites is this All-in-One Seating Chart from GoGrade. I print a copy for each week of the quarter and staple them together for each class period, then I put them all on a clipboard that hangs on my desk. It is even flexible enough to accommodate my (ridiculously) large class sizes of 35-40 students. I also love a good lesson planning template. I’ve spent several years tweaking my AP Language and Composition lesson planning template, which has a built-in calendar, drop-down menus for standards, DOK, and Bloom’s, and sections for lesson segments based on best practices.
- Plan for parents, too. Parents and guardians are too often the last go-to for secondary teachers. By reaching out and establishing good communication at the beginning of the year, you can eliminate the vast majority of parent concerns and create a support system for struggling students. This year, I made a tri-fold brochure with information about my AP Lang & Comp class to give to families. It has information about the policies parents ask about the most: grading, late/make-up work, technology, communication, and the test in May. It also has a teacher bio to help humanize me a bit. I’ve used QR codes to link to my full course expectations and additional information I couldn’t fit. I just manipulated a generic brochure template in PowerPoint–download the brochure here and change it for yourself.
- Mind your mindset. It is so important to start the year with flexibility. It’s also the right time to set that expectation for your students (this will really pay off in December and March, when stress levels are especially high). I’m excited to start using this Growth Mindset Bundle from the SuperHERO Teacher. Her work is so well researched and clearly presented. You can do incredible teaching with a student who is open to learning.
- Let your hair down. We all have critical content and skills, but too often, we forget to have fun with our students. Need to review after a long weekend? Turn it into a game. Students stuggling to keep ideas/dates/terms straight? Have them do a word sort. Introducing a new theme? Use an experiential entry point (or better yet, multiple entry points). Reviewing multiple choice? Kahoot it! Summer is the perfect time to prep for those activities. You can keep a few things in your back pocket for easy planning/low prep later…and your students will love you for it.
These tasks are keeping me busy this summer, but I know they’ll help me be a happier, more effective teacher next year.
What are you doing to supercharge your back to school?