One enthusiastic educator's exciting journey to teaching mastery
One enthusiastic educator's exciting journey to teaching mastery
In the last month, a lot has changed in my professional life. I now know for certain I will be changing schools next August!
I am already looking forward to next school year. I will be serving a different clientele of students, going back to work in my hometown (so much closer to precious niece - yay!), and learning to plan curriculum with a different framework. In fact, my new principal already sent me to a conference to become a certified IB teacher. I have to share all these wonderful things I learned and experienced during the four-day seminar.
I made new friends!
Not only did I get to know a few of my future colleagues from school, but I also got the chance to connect with educators from around the world, all with their own teaching histories. I met a teacher who was going to Poland two days post-conference to teach for a year, one who had been teaching in Japan for 24 years, one who was going to South Africa, another form Antigua...Wow did I ever have a thirst for travelling during that weekend!
Every snack break and lunch break and little minutes here-and-there I had, I was asking my new friends how their classrooms and schools and communities blend together. They inspired me with counts of their integration of IB practices in their classrooms and shared resources and tips that hadn't made their way to my corner of the world yet. The networking possibilities alone were so interesting!
I discovered a great educational program!
...and all of this in a beautiful city.
Being a Montrealer, I love living in a city that showcases its diversity and culture in a million different ways- so travelling to Toronto, ON for the conference was a bonus! The train we took was fast and comfortable, and there's something I find so special about trains that just calms me and makes me happy. Seeing the Toronto skyline as the train pulled into the station was really something! While my colleagues and I didn't get too much downtime to explore the city, we did enjoy some great restaurants in the city's downtown core, and took in a teeny-tiny bit of shopping too.
Going away for a conference, and meeting teachers from around the world has definitely had a impact on me, and I find myself daydreaming of travel plans constantly....who knows what the future holds!
6. Choose a planner
5. Prep visual aids
And I mean sketch, lightly. Talk to your colleagues to see if there are any units they want to bring back next year, or see if some things are off-limits because other grades do them. You can estimate how long the units will take, and if you're very ambitious, write out what you want students to gain by the end of the unit.
Since I belong to an IB school, the staff has already decided on units for the year, even though they may be tweeked along the way. Since I don't know (yet) what activities my colleagues have lined up, I've done a bit of "research" ahead of time, so I don't feel empty-hand.
And by research, I mean I created a bunch of boards on Pinterest. Still counts.
Even if you don't know what grade you're heading into in September, there are still things you can prepare ahead of time to save you some stress. Trust me, future-you will thank you!
7. Sketch out your year
Why not benefit year-long from having the time to finally do things just the way you like?
Spending a bit of my vacation time formatting, printing, cutting and sometimes coloring a bunch of visual aids is not at the top of my holiday musts. But I see it as an investment, because when the school year rolls around, I won't be stressed about having to make all these things- AND they will look just the way I want, not like a rushed- or half-done job!
Here are a few things I got ready over the last week:
- word wall letters
- alphabet banner
- daily schedule
- environmental print
- class calendar
- class responsibility chart
- visuals for class reward system
4. Sub lesson plans
Is there nothing worse than waking up from a terrible night's sleep with a pounding migraine, only to realize that if you want to stay in bed, it's going to cost you the time it takes to make plans for your sub? I've lived it so many times, I daresay I'm learning from my mistakes (gasp!). The next time I need to take a sick day, I'll be thankful for this!
Here's what I include in my sub folder:
- photocopy machine password
- annotated class list
- class schedule
- school procedures for getting from class to class
- class procedures (for morning work, recess, snack, and free time)
- enough lessons to occupy and challenge the kids all day
- some funtivities
3. Meet the teacher handouts
Meet the Teacher handouts
While my school only does the Meet the Teacher night a few weeks into the school year, it always seems to just creep up so fast! Why not cut down on some of that stress now, when you have the time?
Last year, I created this information flipbook to guide my presentation. This year, I'm starting off with the same template, and changing up some information as necessary. I know future me will be happy!
2. Make a wishful shopping list
I know the temptation of stocking up during summertime- but beware: all those little things add up quickly, and you haven't even started the school year yet!
This year, I've started drafting a wishlist of what I think is "missing" from my class. I use quotation mark because sometimes it feels like we'll never have enough stuff. But as I packed up my classroom at the end of the year, gearing up for yet another classroom move, I couldn't believe how much stuff I'd accumulated in just a few years of teaching! How much would it all up to? I hate to think of it!
Couldn't anyone have donated a lamp, if I had asked? Couldn't I look online for a secondhand computer chair? And what about some games I've bought that the kids never touched? Let's not forget the casualties I've lost along the way (the wicker teacher chair that a student loved to pull apart, the lamp a student accidentally smashed, or the Lego people that have one "missing"). Oh, the dollars spent.
That's why I decided to set myself a 100$ limit for spending on my class this year, with the objective that I'll become more resourceful and creative with what I already have and I will spend my money wisely!
Here's what's on my wishlist so far:
- a 5th curtain (new classroom has 5 gorgeous windows!!)
- book boxes for 2 sets of students
- teacher chair
- a sofa, or *I know it's a reach" a claw foot tub (for reading, of course!)
- storage for 40 kids' worth of daily work (I like this, but not the price tag)
- ink pads
- computer chair
1. List EVERYTHING you need to do once you get into your classroom
I know that a lot of teachers can't get into their classrooms until the very last minute (that has been my case every year of my teaching career!!) - which is why it's essential to make good use of those days before school. Keep a prioritized ongoing list during the summer to make sure your time is used efficiently! I like the GoogleApp Keep, but that's one of many available.
Here's are some things on my list so far:
- hang curtains
- write large numbers on the floor for our morning meeting
- take down any remnant papers on the bulletin boards
- set up area for communal supplies
- set up plants & lamps
- get a teacher library card from local library (to take out more books!)
What else do you include in your summer preparation for back-to-school?
I hate borders. The kind you put around bulletin boards. I find them insulting, and sometimes repulsive. I have some, yes, given to me by fellow teachers, but I never felt I could use them. There's something patronizing about the illustrations on them (look! the smiling cartoon faces on this border indicate we are having fun! get it?), or thinking that student work needs to be glamorized in any way. The cuteness and theme-y-ness is too much for me!
And it's not just borders- I would venture to say I even have a problem with clip art! Yes, even the new cutesy ones, not just the 90's stuff. I don't mean to insult any teacher who likes their pretty classroom- because my students and I definitely enjoy our clean, organized and beautiful space. I just don't know how many kids connect to it.
The kids I know are human- they feel all sorts of emotions, they color outside the lines, they live imperfect lives, like all of us, so seeing perfectly cutesy faces, or borders, portrays a kind of impossible standard to live up to. Not just for the kids, but for me. It gets messy in my class, and it gets real- I want a classroom that reflects our reality. I don't want to insult or judge any teacher that loves clip art or borders or anything like that- if it works for you and your kids, more power to you! This is just my personal opinion, and how I like to do things. By no means do I have all the answers.
That's why I want to know: What are some of your classroom design "rules" that you live by?
When I first started teaching, I was also in the army reserves, so when school would let out in June, I would pack up and ship off to training camps, all the way until school started again at the end of August. Once I left the service, I had hectic summers of moving apartments, traveling abroad, and doing everything but sitting still...While I'll soon be entering my fifth year in the teaching profession, this is the first summer I've gotten to enjoy it the way it's meant to be: disconnecting and recharging.
I've being doing this two ways.
1. Investing in my happiness!
Summer vacation is the perfect time as a teacher to recharge for next year- this means a lot more than just sleeping in and catching up on favourite TV shows. I've been reading blogs about happiness (my favourite being happier.com), and working on being grateful and present in the moment, I even opened an instagram account to document at least one moment of daily happiness. I've been spending lots of times with friends and family, hosting some great backyard barbecues and riding my bike along the waterfront. This is what summer was meant for!
2. Working on teacher things. You'd think this would be a big no-no to disconnect. In reality, doing a couple of teacher things now and then is cutting down on any back-to-school stress I might have. I am loving the opportunity to slowly get ready for next year and having time to read the professional books I've been stockpiling. Getting my planner ready, listening to education TEDTalks, and gathering ideas for the units I have coming up next year are all doing a great job in keeping me connected to education, but on my own terms.
These two guidelines have helped me start off the most relaxing summer of my career! How do you spend your teacher summer?
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