By Teachers, For Teachers
I knew I shouldn't have counted the last days of summer, but I couldn't help it. I had to know. Grabbing the nearest calendar, I started counting. As I counted each day, I realized how quickly summer was passing and I had yet to really begin the new year. Oh, I have talked about it plenty, bookmarked a few pages here and there on the computer, added to my Pinterest board, and made little notes in my special “teacher” notebook, but haven't physically done anything.
As I counted the last day, stopping at August 18 (our starting date), it appeared there were only 24 days of vacation remaining! This means I have 24 days to set up and organize my classroom, finish reading the professional books selected from my previous blog, and learn anything new I am supposed to learn before new 4th graders arrive. Not to mention family commitments and tutoring.
My first reaction to my newly discovered deadline was panic! Not so much about the organization of the classroom as that won't take me too long since I tend to be pretty organized within the classroom, but panic over the many things I have yet to finish reading and learning.
I have such great plans for this coming year, including the implementation of a new classroom management system, learning and incorporating the Daily 5 Reading program, putting together a solid health unit, and developing better lesson plans. All this in just 24 days! Seems impossible when you group it together in a large “to-do” list.
After a few deep breaths, I quickly realized I was not alone. I am surrounded by other teachers who also use the summer to better equip themselves. We all have the same goal: To become amazing super teachers who singlehandedly change the lives of our students. We all have the same long “to do” list with the same deadline. We have less than 60 days to store up our super powers and accomplish the task. Yet, we all manage to do so year after year. Why am I so worried?
By looking at the resources and tools I have at my disposal, I know there is no need to panic. Twenty four days is plenty of time to accomplish all I need to and maybe a little more.
First step: Decrease my to-do list to daily goals instead of weekly goals. By breaking down what it is I want to get accomplished into smaller segments, it doesn't seem so overwhelming.
Second step, get online and reach out to other teachers. Social media has become a great tool for teachers. I love the feature on Facebook that allows you to create small groups within the larger group for specific topics. Using this feature, a friend and I created Chatty Teachers. It’s a small group presently consisting of 15-20 teachers from various grade levels and schools. Within this group, we share daily concerns, new reads, what is “in,” what is “out,” new buzzwords, teacher humor, lesson plans, and of course the occasional complaint. Since creating this group, I have been introduced to new teachers from all walks of life as well as new ideas. The best part: there is always room for new members to be added to the group.
Twitter is another great social media tool. While I do not use it as often as Facebook, I have had the opportunity to connect to a few teachers as well as authors (Pseudonymous Bosch just recently) that have so graciously given me ideas to incorporate in class or sites that are beneficial. There are also links posted for online webcasts, most of which are free to join if you have an hour or two in the evening. I try to take advantage of these when I can. One because they are free, two because sometimes I can get professional credit for them, and three, I actually learn new things that I can use.
Pinterest is a new favorite. I have three (or is it four?) boards going right now. I am still a newbie at the site, but I have found incredible ideas that are so easy to execute. Until they come up with a book of all my favorite pins, I will have to settle for printing out favorites and storing them in a notebook with remarks on how successful they were in class. I have yet to find one that is unsuccessful, and my notebook is getting quite full. It makes a wonderful resource for next year or to share with a fellow teacher.
Another resource: Face-to-face time, or brainstorming sessions, as I call them. I love getting together with my teacher friends. I know it is not polite to put a label on people but they truly are my “teacher friends.” I don't think teaching is a profession as much as it is a way of life, and this group never ceases being teachers! We can be enjoying a nice cup of coffee, talking about a prevalent news topic, and something will spark a lesson or an idea. It is just how we think! Getting together with this group to discuss ideas is always a good plan. If I haven't heard of or done it yet, one of them will have. Should the rarity occur where no one in the group has tried it out, well, we gather the books or information online and we check it out. We go back and forth with what we have learned until we feel confident to give it a try. Thus the case with the Daily 5 this year.
One additional resource: A notebook and pen. Simple little tools, but they are so valuable. I keep them handy in my purse. I am often jotting down ideas, classroom apps, book titles, or websites someone has given me.
As the summer days continue to pass quickly, I can relax (a little). There really isn't need to panic. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. It took time, commitment, and a great support team. I know I have the resources and a great support system in place to help me plan my professional, back to school classroom ideas and plan for a great school year. So no worrying, but maybe a little more reading!
What resources or support do you use to help you prepare for the new school year?