Posts Tagged ‘back-to-school’

Depending on your district’s policies and the demographic of the parents, you may want to consider letting parents know about your last minute needs. Some parents enjoying donating items to their child’s classroom. In my school, we have a Curriculum Night one evening during the first full week of school. It’s a great time to delineate expectations and establish lines of communication. In a prominent place, I display sticky notes, each labeled with a classroom need (zippered plastic bags, more index cards, etc.). Anything you know you’ll run out of before year’s end can be on this wish list. When you do your class presentation, you can explain what needs the sticky notes represent, along with your reassurance that it’s fine if they don’t take one.

Given the amount of money you’ve probably already spent on your classroom, this can idea keep you from spending even more.

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Looking for a way to keep track of your grades, without the drudgery of figuring all of the percentages yourself? Check out this terrific Excel gradebook from Microsoft. It’s easy to use, and it’s free!

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The end of the current year is a great time to get organized for next fall. While everything is fresh on your mind, take a couple of days after the students’ are gone and sift through your piles. If you have considered relocating the reading corner, your desk, or a bookshelf, this is the perfect time. Once you return to the room in August, you’ll feel the pressure of the countdown till opening day. Right now, your schedule is hopefully more relaxed, so take advantage of it. Once you do start your vacation, you’ll enjoy it more, knowing that your room is ready and waiting.

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Whether this is your first year or you’ve been teaching for a decades, everyone needs a good role model.  As we tell our students, “As long as you are alive, you should be a learner.”  So, let’s take our own advice and learn some ways to be an even better teacher this year.  The question is, who are you going to learn from?

When our older son was about 18, I was stunned to hear him say to his brother, “If you want to learn about something, watch someone who does it well.  Then do what they do.”  Where did he learn that?!  I don’t remember giving him such sage advice.  But when I’ve acted on that wisdom, it has served me well.

As we get reacquainted with our peers, it’s a great time to keep our radar up and scanning for a good role model.  Who’s the teacher that connects the best with students?  Who seems to juggle all of their balls effortlessly?  Who has an admirable passion for education?  Who has a great rapport with the administration?   Think about an area you feel weak in and find someone who excels there.  Watch them this year, and begin to do what they do.  At the end of this year, you may be pleasantly pleased to learn that your weakness has turned into a strength.

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My feet have total freedom in the summer.  They are never covered by more than the plastic thong of my flip flops or, if I’m going to church, a narrow sandal strap.  As the first day of school approaches, I am reminded that putting on “real” shoes means that I have real responsibilities.

I sometimes say that I wish summer would last forever, but in reality, I’m thankful my life is about to take on more meaning and purpose.  Each day in the classroom will be an opportunity to help my students learn.  I will instruct, counsel, encourage, connect and correct.  I’ll hone my skills as I plan, teach and evaluate.  I will spend long hours and some days, wonder if I am making a difference.  But, just as leather shoes sometimes pinch your toes, I’ll remember that responsibility is not always comfortable. 

In a few days, when I reach to the back of the closet to find my favorite slip-ons, I may be a bit wistful.  But my sense of anticipation will override any sorrow.  I am eager to start walking down the path called “this year” – even if it means saying goodbye to my flip flops.

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Given the state of education, the approaching school year is prompting some parents to re-evaluate their game plan.  Public school used to look like a good option:  the kids were close to home, transportation was free, and test scores were rising.  With budgets shrinking and class sizes ballooning, some parents are taking a second look.  What would they see if they peered into your room?

It all depends on the individual teacher.  Despite the lack of funding and more students per class than ever, some of us still do an excellent job.  We connect personally with each of our students and instill a love for learning.  We motivate, instruct and inspire.  We love every student – even those who make our job harder by coming to class ill-prepared.  Teachers are, in some ways, returning to the days back on the prairie, when a teacher filled the coal stove one moment and directed little Johnny’s reading the next.  But in 2010, one hand is on the RTI plan for a needy student as the other hand answers an urgent e-mail, all the while moving 25 other students through the differentiated instruction plans we created the night before.

As you get ready for another year, keep in mind that it is we, the individual teachers, who will collectively decide the state of our educational system.    Certainly, federal and state laws have a significant impact on the system.  But on a daily basis, a student will learn or not learn because of what we, the teachers, do with our time and theirs.  I believe that with hard work and a good attitude, I can make a significant difference in my students’ lives.  It may not be a perfect year, but it’s going to be a good one.  Who’s with me?

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