Salvaging the Summer: Tips for Teachers
If you’re like me, waiting until the beginning of next year can muddy the waters of your memory. If you want to make the best use of your time off then invest it in making sure that next year goes even smoother than this past year.
Suppose you were talking to a teacher midway through the year and they had a horrendous year. Do you think they would have traded 10-15 hours of their summer to not have that kind of year? Of course they would. Now, think about how your year went? Would you trade 10-15 hours of your summer planning if it meant that your next teaching year would be a notably better experience? If so, then take some time this summer to review and strategize in the areas listed below. It doesn’t take long and can be refreshing and enjoyable since you get to do it leisurely.
Things Teachers Should Consider Over the Summer
1) School Loyalty: This is first on the list. Now is the time to reassess if you like your school and if you want to work there? Do you like your leadership? If not, don’t spend next year being a negative Nancy. Begin looking for opportunities this summer and try a different school. More often than not, the people you work with will color the experience you have. If your year wasn’t great, maybe it had more to do with the attitudes of the people around you than it has to do with the profession or your students. Sometimes that is the case, but when it is, it is often overlooked.
2) Classroom Procedures and Expectations: Assuming you’ve decided to stay at your school or that you have found another one, the next thing you need to look at is your procedures and expectations. What went well and what didn’t this past year? At this point it doesn’t matter how much time or effort you put into something. I don’t care how long it took to make the bathroom chart you hang on your wall or how much the cute bathroom timer cost you… we are only concerned with results. If it doesn’t produce the results you want it’s got to go (or be changed so that it does work).
Look at ALL your procedures and everything you do in your classroom (even if it works) and try to improve them even more. Taking something that works beautifully and tweaking it to work even better is what separates average teachers from master class teachers.
3) Classroom Layout and Logistics: If you haven’t put much thought into the organization of your room, you also need to do this before the year begins. Sometimes you have an option for the teacher desk so revisit that. Is your desk positioned in the best possible place? What about the student desks? Are your student desks usually in groups, lines, or a “U” formation? Where do students get make up work? Is the pencil sharpener in the best spot? These are only a few of the questions you can think about.
There is a flow to every classroom and the summer time is the best time to think about how everything flows together. Do students bottleneck somewhere when trying to turn in work, pick up folders, or some other fairly regular activity? If so, come up with solutions to increase the speed and flow. Students should never need to pick something up and then turn around and fight the flow of other students to get back to their seats. This creates too much chaos… tighten things up! Make things flow.
4) Curriculum: Last but certainly not least is your curriculum and instruction. Sometimes there is not a lot you can do with this over the summer, depending on how much is dictated to you. But you can still look at delivery methods and processes. You can try to add a little spice and flavor to the units that you know were dry. If you at least know a little about what you will be teaching then you can get started. Don’t be afraid to call your administrators over the summer to let them know that you want to start planning as soon as possible. They will tell you as much as they can (and as soon as they can) because they want quality instruction going on as much as you do.
Curriculum is the final and most important piece of the puzzle. Without strong instruction, you’re simply a glorified babysitter. But without the other pieces of the puzzle, you’ll never have an opportunity to teach the curriculum with fidelity. So take some time this summer to think and plan so that next year will be even better than this one.