Monday, June 3, 2013

Seven End-of-Year Tips to Prepare for Next Year

My school district has only 2 days of school left for teachers.  Our kids finished Friday. Tomorrow we have some curriculum development meetings, and Wednesday we wrap it all up for the year. Summer is so close I can taste it . . . and I don't think I've ever wanted it more!

This is the best time I can think of to prepare for next year. Exam week and the work days to follow provide for lots of "down time."  Yes, there are exams to grade, but aside from that?  Not much.  Right now, this school year is fresh in my mind.  Why wait until August to decide to reflect on it?  I know, I know-- I am a huge nerd awesome at reflective teaching.  So, I am taking good notes about what I want to repeat / do differently / never-do-again-for-the-love-of-God next year. 

Seven Steps I Take During the Final Week to Prepare for Next Year:   

  •  Purge the paperwork.
I do a lot of throwing away this time of year.  This year I have thrown more away than probably ever before-- with the advent of file storage technology like Google Drive and Dropbox, I have no need to have file cabinets full of papers, nor do I need to even carry a jump drive around.  Take it from me; it's liberating to empty those brimming file cabinets of everything but the essentials.  When you've got it down to just what's absolutely necessary, organizing it becomes much less daunting.

  •  Make some sense of the insanity.
I don't know about you guys, but my end-of-year classroom, in spite of the valiant efforts of our wonderful custodial staff,  starts to look like it has been through a simultaneous tsunami/mudslide/volcanic eruption/earthquake.  Last week, there was a sock in the floor.  A cake pan on the table (not mine).  Five mechanical pencils, all broken.  A textbook belonging to a student no one has ever heard of.  Clean it up.  I, for one, put the kids to work when they all finish their exams.  They love to help, and it gets spic-n-span super quickly!  

Before . . .
Disgusting, right?

and after!

  •  Make a summer to-do list.
I'm at the point in my career that I don't have a massive amount of summer planning to do, but this is a list of some things that will make the new school year easier for me.   On my list:
general lesson plans for two new "preps" I'll be teaching, writing practice questions for my academic team, putting together a presentation on educational technology I'm presenting in August, and catching up on some school-related reading I haven't had time for. To keep up with all of this, I use Evernote, a free app that saves my notes and lists and makes them available to all computers and mobile devices.
  •  Make a list of ideas for back-to-school.

Here's mine. It isn't cute, or super neat, or even sensible to someone else-- but it will do the trick.  It's a place for me to jot down new ideas, a shopping list of school supplies, and reminders about where some files are saved.  I've even copied and pasted the text of a few relevant emails.  I will add to this all summer long, and lean heavily on it when work days begin in August.  
  •  Write a "Dear Me" letter to find in August.
This is way too nerdy for me to share . . . but basically, it is what it sounds like.  I write myself a letter, welcoming myself back to school.  In it, I give myself five or six tasks (read-- SMALL tasks) that need doing right away to be ready for the kids to return.  This list shouldn't be so long that it's overwhelming.  I also try to add some words of encouragement-- back to school time is scary, y'all!
  •  Plan a summer schedule.
I have also designed a summer schedule to ascertain that I don't lie around like a slug all summer keep me on track.  I'm not saying you need a military-style round-the-clock schedule, but it helps to dedicate a few hours per day or a day a week to school work.  I'm a serial procrastinator  so without planning a set time for work, I will find myself in August having done nothing.  Believe me, you'll feel a lot better when you return to school if you've gotten on top of the workload this summer.
  •  Pack a box of take-home stuff.
Really, there's no need to pack your entire classroom and lug it home, only to lug it back again in the fall, not having touched it.  Take a close look at your summer to-do list, and take only the necessities.  A box or two should do it.  I brought home a textbook for a new (to me) class I'll be teaching, along with some basic lesson planning materials. 
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