Sometimes, (okay all of the time) we get so busy over the summer that we BLINK and suddenly it’s August 1st. I distinctly remember several August 1st days in my career when I said to myself, “I didn’t get anything done that I wanted to this summer! Where did time go?” I would become a Teaching Tornado as I tried to scramble to put different pieces of content and instructional changes together for the new year.
What if I told you that I’m here to help you this summer? What if I told you that you CAN make positive, intentional changes and decisions for your classroom AND have time to relax? In today’s blog post, I’m going to share five common mistakes that teachers make throughout the summer when it comes to tackling their teaching to-do list the break! Let’s dive in.
#1: The “Where Did My Summer Go and Now What?” Mistake
During the month of May, you had all kinds of ambitious ideas of things you wanted to change, alter, tweak, or add for next school year. On the last day of school, you got home, threw your teaching bag into the closet, and fell asleep by 7:30 pm on a Friday night. All you really want to do is binge a show on Netflix, sleep in, and not worry about school. Before you do that, though, I want you to avoid the mistake of letting summer slip away from you too quickly. Taking just 10 minutes right now to reflect on the school year you just completed will help you to prioritize your goals for next year, and allow you to have a plan in place for your teaching. If you wait until August to think about what you want to change, there is a high possibility that you will be too busy to focus on what you feel you truly need. It’s better to think about these things right now – while it’s still fresh in your mind and your heart.
What I don’t want is for you to go into that “Teaching Tornado” mode – where you scramble to find ANYTHING that feels “different” or “new” on August 1st. Different and new is great – but only if it doesn’t distract us from the areas of our teaching that we know need to be addressed. This quote is always on my mind at the end of the year: “If we keep doing what we have always done, we’re going to get the same results.” Making the time NOW to reflect on things that went well and areas we can improve is one of the secrets to a great educator. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses benefits our students and our effectiveness in the classroom.
To help you reflect on your school year so that you know exactly what you need and want to focus on this summer, I’ve created a simple Teacher Reflection Sheet. For each of the four areas: organization, management, instruction, and content, list a GLOW and a GROW.
A glow is something you are rocking at! Reflect and think about what went really well this year, and jot it down beside the sunshine graphic. This is something that is GLOWING. What are you most confident in for each area? After you write it down, you should be able to look at it and think, “Yeah….I rock at that!”
A grow can be something you need to improve on, something new you want to try, or something you need to figure out. Think about what you would like to change, alter, or focus on next year. Maybe something you did was great, but you know it could have been better. Maybe your transitions didn’t flow as well as you would have liked. Maybe you felt like you spent more time preparing morning work than it took the kids to DO the morning work. Maybe the end of the day was always crazy and you know you need something to help with routine and organization.
You can snag this FREE Teacher Reflection Guide by clicking on the picture below:
I want this reflection sheet to be as helpful for you as it can be, so I have included a picture of the reflection sheet I filled out for my own teaching! I have been on a maternity leave this past school year to stay home with my baby boy. Next school year, I will be taking my last year of leave. (My district allows up to two years of maternity leave, so I’ve decided to take advantage of this VERY SHORT time when Sawyer will only be so little! #stopgrowingup) I am aching to get back into my classroom, but boy has this time off really allowed me to reflect on some changes I want to make when I dive back in!
As you can see from my own reflection sheet, I have some “big” ticket items and some “small” ticket items. It’s important not to make your goals for next year TOO lofty, or you’ll end up frazzled and overwhelmed. Of course, there are TONS of other areas I need to improve on, but I’ve listed four that I think are manageable and will make significant changes in my room.
ORGANIZATION: I have worked hard throughout the years to build a solid routine for my lesson planning and weekly routine. If you’re looking for some tips and tricks for your weekly lesson planning, you’ll love this blog post I wrote called: How I Stay Organized. If your “grow” includes organization of supplies or math centers, you may want to take a look at these resources and blog posts:
MANAGEMENT: I looked at this from both a time management angle and behaviorally. When I reflect on our school day, I know our morning routine and morning work is smooth, focused, and fully appropriate for EVERY learner in my classroom. I use my See Think Wonder WRITE pack for our morning routine, and it has created a calm and happy tone to our day! Not to mention, I am able to integrate tons of science, social studies, and writing into our morning – without worksheets! #allthepraisehands – As for my GROW, I want to focus on making sure I’m not rushing through the afternoon. Sometimes, I take too long on my mini-lessons, and it causes a ripple effect throughout the afternoon. To solve that, I’ve decided to set a simple egg timer that will go off when we have 5 minutes of the mini-lesson left.
INSTRUCTION: I spent the past three years of my teaching focusing on making comprehension and reading skills concrete and highly-visual for my students. Keeping that focus has paid off, as I have been able to develop some awesome comprehension lessons that have truly boosted my students’ comprehension and reading skills! If this is something you’re wanting to focus on, too, you may be interested in the following resources to help you:
- Schema and Metacognition
- Determining Importance
- Tap It Out: Making Decoding Visual for Readers
For my personal GROW with instruction, I want to focus on acquiring more strategies for my students who struggle with attention and processing disorders. It’s an area that I believe will benefit ALL of my students in the long-run and something I have been passionate about lately!
CONTENT: An area of content that I now feel fully confident in is VOCABULARY! As many of you know, I’ve been focusing for the past several years on building vocabulary skills with my primary students. Because I reflected on my teaching and realized it was an area of concern for my students, I am happy to say I now have a streamlined, consistent, engaging, and mind I say – SUPER FUN – vocabulary routine in place for my kids! If you teach kindergarten, first, or second grade (or intervention), and your “grow” area is also vocabulary this year, click on one of the grade levels below to learn more. It will CHANGE your students for the better and help them build and develop their Tier 2 vocabulary all within the context of real stories and passages. More importantly, it has helped my students to use and understand how the words relate to their everyday lives.
For my GROW, I am planning on continuing to build up my critical thinking resources for our Critical Thinking Tubs that we will be implementing on Monday and Friday mornings. You can learn more about our Brain Booster Tubs in a blog post I wrote HERE.
WHEW! That was a lot! Now that we know WHAT we want to focus on, let’s talk about mistakes that lead teachers to NOT actually focus on what they should be…
#2: The “I Should Have Looked That Up” Mistake
During the school year, it can be HARD to find time to read professional development books. We have a million other things to attend to and when we come home, we have families to take care of and that thing called sleep. During the summer, however, we are blessed with some time to dive into the professional development books of our choice. I encourage you to take advantage of the extra time you have this summer and pick out a professional development book that aligns with one of the GROW statements you jotted down in the reflection sheet. Below, are the ones I am digging into this summer. (The book links below are Amazon Affiliate links. This just means that Amazon tosses a few cents my way – at no extra cost to you – if you purchase the book through the following links.)
My district has a certain percentage of low-income families, so Eric Jenson’s book: Engaging Students With Poverty in Mind is really hitting home. It provides practical and brain-based ways to reach students that come from low-income homes. The second two books above are really helping me to provide some practice tools and strategies for my students who struggle with attention and processing disorders, which was the GROW area I chose for the category of instruction on the reflection sheet. The final book, Present over Perfect, is a book for ME that also will relate back to teaching. I can get so overwhelmed a “rushed” throughout the school year, that I rarely slow down to truly savor each moment and enjoy LIFE! It’s time to start slowing down and making sure that I am putting my priorities and attention in the right places, and this book is about just that!
#3: The “I Just Pinned #allthestuff” Mistake
Confession: I make this mistake every.single.summer. I log into Pinterest and I have SO MUCH FUN pinning all kinds of random ideas, activities, and adorable crafts. I am constantly thinking, “Oh that’s so cute!” or “Maybe I’ll do that this year!” Then, what happens when August 1st rolls around? I realize I’ve pinned and pinned and pinned #allthecutethings but I didn’t intentionally pin ideas, activities, and resources that align with the GROWS I jotted down on my reflection sheet. This year, avoid that mistake by creating a Pinterest board JUST for your goals for the 2017-2018 school year. Sure, you can keep pinning all the other cute ideas that you love, but having a separate board filled with ideas and resources for the specific areas of your classroom and your teaching that you want to change, alter, or tweak will keep you focused and intentional with your plans. If you’re looking for ideas for some of the GROWS you reflected on, below are some of my Pinterest Boards that you can follow that may be helpful to you this summer:
#4 The “My Room Looks Cute! Wait, I Have To Teach This Year?” Mistake
The picture above is a literacy coaching office that I never actually used. A couple of years ago, I was supposed to teach my first graders in the afternoon, while another teacher taught math in the morning. During the morning, I was to be a literacy coach for the building. The woman I was supposed to co-teach with ended up going to a different district a couple weeks shy of the first day of school. Plans changed quickly, and I was suddenly teaching full-time first grade again – and coaching during my planning time! That was the year I got pregnant, and I had to finally admit that I was just too exhausted and sick to be teaching all day with no planning, and working on blogging and coaching/data issues in the evenings. I could barely stay awake to eat my lunch! Why am I telling you this? Plans change quickly in education. I had spent that whole summer having WAY too much fun decorating and finding things for my cute little office for the fall. (Wasn’t it adorable though?) After I found out I was teaching full-time first grade again, I was suddenly a bit overwhelmed in all of the content and instructional issues I had ignored during the summer months. Had I first focused on content, and decorations last, I would have felt more prepared throughout the school year. My point to this story is to learn from my mistake: “Content and instructional practices should always come first. Decorations should come last.”
#5: The “It’s The First Day of School and I’m Already Tired” Mistake
The final mistake that I often see teachers make is not taking ANY time to relax and re-energize for the coming school year. I know that is easier said than done. You have families to take care, kids to chauffeur from activity to activity, and the GROW statements I just had you reflect on, right? However, I completely believe that you can find at least 10 minutes here and there to relax and find time for you. It may be getting up 10 minutes earlier or deciding that the vacuum can wait until tomorrow. Nevertheless, carving some “me” time out will make you a much happier, healthier, and energized teacher in the fall.
My husband and I always try to carve this time out in June rather than later in the summer, when we know our lives will get busier with back to school events. We recently traveled to Grenada, where I spent 4 days not thinking about teaching. When I came home, I felt rested and ready to tackle my to-do lists and enjoy this extra time with my family. Here are some ideas for you:
- Read a book
- Take a walk
- Take a nap
- Savor a cup of coffee or tea
- Have a picnic with your kids
- See a movie
- Have a hot breakfast (since that doesn’t often happen during the school year!)
It’s easy to let the summer slip away from us. Keeping these five ideas in mind will, I hope, help you to keep your goals and “grow” areas in mind and in focus. Doing so will allow you to start the new year off with a solid plan in place for your classroom. You will feel accomplished in knowing you are making the changes and alterations that are benefiting you as an educator, your classroom, and most importantly, your students. Don’t forget to sign-up to get your FREE Reflection Sheet e-mailed to your inbox:
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