Early Bird Gets The Worm: 5 Things To Do This Summer
Make the most of your summer for an even better 2012-2013 school year.
While summer is definitely a time for teachers to kick up their heels, it is also a time to grow and prepare for what’s next. Recharging after a long school year is a must. But once you’ve given yourself a break, take advantage of the time off by reflecting on the past school year and planning for a new one.
Here are five things you can do this summer to make this school year better than the last one.
Teachers are constantly asking their students to reflect through writing, but they often fail to do so themselves. Reflecting can be daunting, but research shows that daily reflection can be one of the most beneficial things a teacher can do.
The most significant growth comes from immediate reflection. But now that summer is here, take the time to think back on your successes and failures. Look back through your plan book and put into writing the things that you are proud of and the things that you will do differently for the new school year.
Reflective teachers put thought and consideration into each planned and unplanned moment that occurs in the classroom, all in an effort to make it better! It is highly likely that reflecting on the last school year will inspire you to make some major changes.
After you’ve done some reflecting and reorganizing, use the summer to improve the parts of your classroom instruction that didn’t go exactly as you’d hoped. Even if you were largely successful this past year, there are always things that can be tweaked. Start with your systems and structures.
Rituals and routines are an important part of classroom management and, ultimately, student success. Put thought into those simple day-to-day happenings, and then move into the specifics with curriculum and lesson planning.
Think outside the box!
By now, we all know that students learn more from hands-on, activity-based learning than direct instruction. Dig deep into your units, try to find ways to limit the time that you play “sage on the stage,” and come up with innovative, experiential ways your students can learn the content. The Internet is full of suggestions from other teachers. Do your research and find ways to make class even more engaging. Your students will appreciate it!
Take advantage of your summer weeks by doing the things you likely won’t have time to do once the school year starts. Reorganizing your materials and workspace is a given; no teacher wants to start the school year unprepared and unorganized.
I like to use this time to reorganize my classroom wiki. If you don’t have one, join for free at Wikispaces and kick-start this amazing resource before classes begin! Classroom wikis and blogs can be an incredible communication and organization tool, but they take time to design and build up. Summer is perfect for organizing your first wiki or reorganizing the one you used last year with updated calendars, resources, and links.
Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the resources that will likely be unavailable or booked come August or September. While you are doing some planning, think about how you can engage your students through field trips or guest speakers. Make contact with potential field trip coordinators and guest speakers early, and you will be sure to make it onto their calendars.
Reach out to your coworkers, mentors, or other professionals during this time. Collaboration is the easiest way to gain new tools, generate ideas, and get feedback. So often we lack time for collaboration once the school year starts.
While you and your coworkers or mentors have a few days to spare, make contact and get to work. It will make a world of difference, and you will be one step ahead of everyone else when school starts.
There is a reason that we refer to teaching as a “practice.” Just like doctors, good teachers educate themselves on new teaching methods, strategies, and research. The best teachers are also passionate about learning. While your district probably lacks professional development opportunities during summer, there is a ton of literature out there that can help you grow and improve.
Think about something that you would like to work on, like serving ELL students or implementing project-based learning. Chances are there is a multitude of reading material on your topic and books full of great ideas for you to take into your class.
Here’s what I’m reading this summer:
Enriched Learning Projects: A Practical Pathway to 21st Century Skills by James Bellanca
Arts with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen