Each year, after the 4th of July, summer seems to fly by. Before you know it, the school year is ready to start again and if you are a teacher you have a million things to do. It’s important to spend some time recharging your batteries in the summer, but summer can also be a great time to plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. There is so much you need to get done that it can be hard to know where to start. Here are tips to help you with summer planning and professional development.
The Big Picture: When deciding what to work on this summer, envision what you want to change.
Once school starts, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Your to-do list is so long that you end up bogged down in the day-to-day ‘to do’s rather than having a vision of what you want to accomplish that year. Summer is a great time to look at the big picture.
You can examine what went well last year and what you want to change. Set goals for yourself and the upcoming year.
Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Let’s be honest, you could spend hours on Pinterest looking at ideas that are beautiful and creative without really making an impact on the quality of your instruction or your stress level. Instead, examine what is taking up most of your time. Where could your management or instruction be better? What would help you be more organized or reduce your stress?
Prioritize: You can’t do it all, nor should you try to. Prioritizing is a vital part of planning. Decide what is most important and start there.
When you are deciding which items on your to-do list to prioritize, you may find that the following tasks will help you most to ease into the school year and reduce your stress level.
Plan your room arrangement: Think about challenges you had last year and how to mitigate them. Sketch it out and imagine the flow of traffic. What were some things that drove you crazy last year? When did you feel crowded? What obstructed your vision or made classroom management more difficult?
Routines and procedures: If you’ve never done this before, write out every single procedure you plan to teach your students. If you have, read through it and add, take away, or change where necessary. While this is time-consuming, it ensures that you won’t forget to teach anything. Teaching routines is a vital part of the first few weeks of school so when planning procedures, you’re simultaneously getting some of the planning done.
First Week Plans: Now think about what you’ll teach that first week. Plan it all out so that you aren’t trying to plan, rearrange your classroom, make copies, label things, create bulletin boards, and any other tasks required by your administration. Having that first week planned allows you to focus on putting your classroom together and getting mentally prepared.
Plan Out Your Year: Look at your district calendar and plan out what you’ll teach each week of the year. Map out which unit fits where. This makes weekly lesson planning much easier later on. Make a note of any units that were a flop and any changes you want to make.
Organize: Is your desk always a mess? Do you struggle to keep track of papers? What about that file on your computer or google drive? Summer is a great time to tackle organizing projects (even digital ones).
Set Limits: Don’t spend your whole summer working or you’ll feel like you never really got a break. You want to feel fresh and ready to go the first day, so set limits on your work time and try to disconnect the rest of the time. Maybe work for 30 min or an hour a day or limit yourself to all day only one day per week.
Keep your to-do list realistic: Teachers to do lists can get pretty long. Look at what you can reasonably tackle in the time you’ve given yourself. This will help you keep from being so overwhelmed.
Look Beyond School: Don’t just focus on school, focus on your general life and routines as a whole. How can you be healthier? Maybe you need to get more sleep, exercise, wake up earlier, or meditate. Examine what you need and adjust your schedule so you can get it.
Remember, you don’t have to be perfect, just a little better each year. Go easy on yourself. Keep your expectations realistic, so you don’t burn out. Find a balance between relaxing and being productive and try to enjoy the rest of your summer.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.