August 31st, 2012
Do you use the summer — especially August — to reflect on what worked during the previous year and what changes you need to make in your teaching? This week Julie Ramsay (“Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?”) and Katie Keier (Catching Readers Before They Fall) talk about how they rev up their preparations for school and why they appreciate the clean slate they are given each September. Leave a comment to be entered to win a free Stenhouse book at the end of our series.
When summer break begins, it takes me a while to “come down” off of the pace that the conclusion of a school year brings. I enjoy days of no alarm clocks, flip flops, and yoga clothes. Once my mind clears, I find myself finding time to really dig into some fun, personal and professional reading. One book that I always return to each year is Harry Wong’s First Days of School. I have a few sections of that book that are dog-eared, highlighted and notated. I like being reminded of some basic practices and procedures that become invisible by the end of the year and could be easily overlooked when the school year begins with a new crop of learners.
As the beginning of school approaches, I find myself spending more and more time reflecting on my teaching practice from the previous year. I think about what worked, what didn’t work, and what I could improve upon for the upcoming year. Although I reflect all year, I find the summer is the time where I can calm the chaos that usually fills our minds as teachers and really evaluate changes that I want to make. One thing I miss during the school year is being able to spend time outside enjoying the day. Some of my best ideas come to me as I’m hiking, meeting friends for lunch at a local cafe, or enjoying a cup of coffee outside on my front porch. These times give me the opportunity to recharge my batteries and prepare for the epic adventure that my students and I will set out on together each year.
The start of a new school year is full of possibilities, excitement and reflection for me. I start thinking about the new school year soon after the prior year ends. I reflect on what worked well and what didn’t work well. Writing down my thoughts while they are fresh in my mind helps me as I start to map out the new year in early August. We start school after Labor Day, but much of August is spent reading and rereading professional books, looking at bookmarked blogs and Pinterest sites, going back over my reflections in my notebooks and looking over my school notebook from the prior year. It also includes a trip (or two) to Ikea, Target, the local bookstore and many clicks on Amazon, as well as long conversations and emails with friends and colleagues. As I go on my long runs, I visualize the new room, the new year and my new students. I start a new notebook and jot down thoughts and ideas for the upcoming year. I make an “All About Me” book to share with my students on the first day. I carefully choose the first read aloud book I will share with my class. The excitement builds daily!
If I’m lucky, I can get into my classroom a week or so before the year starts. I really like to take my time and mentally visualize my classroom space as I create the basic structure. I spend a lot of time sitting and thinking about what will be happening inside these four walls. My walls are always blank – ready to be filled with the work and learning of our new class – but I do like the furniture and space to be thoughtfully and purposefully designed to reflect the vision I have for our year together. I imagine our room filled with children who are curious, passionate and excited about learning. Then I set forth to create a space that will nurture, support, and allow all children to thrive.
How lucky we are as teachers to have a fresh start every year. To be able to reflect, refine, imagine, dream and create a space where children will learn, laugh, play and enjoy school. I have the best job in the world!
Entry Filed under: Leadership & Mentoring