Throw out the old- It has taken almost twenty years to realize it, but if I haven’t used it in two years, it’s probably best to just throw it out. Don’t start the year again with posters that have torn edges, the three paper plates that you just think you will find some use for… you know what I mean.
Get yourself organized- after you throw out the old, organize the new. Get crates, labels, buckets, whatever it takes to give everything its own place. You will feel so much better about your classroom. I’m always more productive in an organized space.
Spice up your classroom - Something new for the classroom is like sporting a new outfit. New clothes make you feel good. So, get a new bookshelf, design a new bulletin board, just do something. The same ‘ole same ‘ole is just a boring.
Be prepared- It’s a wonderful thing to start the year with a few weeks already planned. It can be a stressful thing to start the year not knowing what you are doing on day 2 of school. I would not recommend it. Spend the time now to get your thoughts in order and know how to get your year off to a great start.
Don’t reinvent the wheel – There are a lot of teachers, former teachers, etc. that are making great lesson plans and activities. The act of teaching is hard enough, and there is rarely any time left in the day to search all over the internet for plans. Use sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and teacher blogs like mine and many others in order to streamline where you get your lessons.
Prioritize- If there is one thing I have had to learn over the years, it’s that everything does not have to get done today. The hard part is that there is always something that has to be done. The list of things to do in education just never ends. Designate an area of your desk where you stack or make note of things that have to get done and when they need to be turned in or completed. Put them in order based on when they are due. It will take some pressure off of you if you realize you just have one thing due tomorrow and not ten.
Get out of the classroom – It doesn’t matter how long you stay at school, there will always be a list of things to do. There will always be a nameplate on a desk that has to be replaced or papers that need to be graded. Yes, there are times when it really is necessary to stay until 6 o’clock between those four cement walls, but on a day to day basis, go home, get out, free yourself. It's better for you and the students. The truth is, it may have been so many years since you've done it that don't realize how refreshing it can be. It took me lots of years to realize it, and I stress that to people. You can be a great teacher and leave at a decent time.
Work, don’t chat – As much as teachers like to talk, sometimes things just need to get done. Yes, we need to vent, discuss the happenings of the day, etc., but some teachers spend their entire planning time (which may only be one day a week for some), talking and complaining. Take that time to actually get things done. My point is, be productive and don’t waste what little time you do have to get things done at school. Look closely. Those teachers that you look at and wonder how they get to leave at 4:00 each day…. Well, they typically don’t waste time during the day.
Don’t be the Debbie Downer- negativity typically breeds negativity. People understand when others need to vent a bit. After all, teaching is hard. Parents can get under our skin. Teachers don't always do things our way. We all have things we need to share and get off our shoulders. But, don’t make a habit of it. Pick and choose the important topics that are worthy of griping about. Also, live by the rule if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, just keep it to yourself. It really isn’t nice to talk about others, no matter how much we want to, and trust me, I have wanted to.
Close your door and teach- There are new approaches to education introduced every year. There are new methods for teaching reading, math, and everything else. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. If you look closely, most of the time the method is the same , but the name has changed. You aren’t really needing to change your way of teaching at all. So, just close your door and keep on keeping on. Teach the way that works best for you and your kids. And if something does change, I always have the attitude that if I can justify why I do what I do then all is good. After all, I have taught for twenty years and have two degrees. That does leave me to be able to make some professional call on how I should run my classroom. I like to try new approaches when I come across them, but I like to pick what will work for me and my students. Not every new approach works for every teacher and for every group of kids, and like I said, the only thing new about most ‘new’ methods of teaching is the name. Sad but true.
I hope you have a terrific school year.
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