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The Best Way to Prepare Your Classroom for Next Year

Jun 09, 2020

Most of us are wrapping up the school year right now and really looking forward to summer break... as you SHOULD!

This year has been everything but boring or relaxing, and at this point I bet you're ready to sign up for both of those descriptors as long as they reside in front of what type of day you're having. Ok, maybe not a boring day, but certainly a relaxing one. YES!  Sign you up, am I right?

I'm betting, though, you're the kind of teacher that finally sits down to actually, you know, relax - get some peace and quiet with your favorite beverage sitting under a shade tree preferably near a clean body of cool water... yep that sounds about right - and just as the quiet settles in your mind starts working.

What about next year?
Will it be normal, blended, online?
Am I ready for that?
How can I get my classroom - both physical and digital prepared?
Do I have what it takes?

Phew - it's enough to drive you mad.

If I may interject in your mind's spinning wheels of madness, though, I'd like to offer a bit of advice or guidance, and even a print out I made to help you process said guidance.  Stay tuned for that.

Alright, let's consider your classroom, or any classroom for that matter where the teacher in the room is active and invested in his/her students' performance while they are in fact his/her students.

Research shows time and time again that even considering other factors that impact a student's performance in school - home life, social and emotional issues, etc. - teachers have more impact than any other.  Bill Sanders' research, of the University of Tennessee's Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, shows that when 3rd graders were placed with high-performing teachers three years in a row, their math assessment scores made up a 52-percentile difference when compared to 3rd grade students who had low-performing teachers three years in a row (Stronge, 2005).

Long-story short... you MATTER.  A LOT.

You, the teacher, being ready to totally K some A, and be "high-performing" throughout the school year, no matter what it looks like, means you are setting up your students for success not just on your own end-of-course assessment, but on those for the next three years!

The Big Takeaway

So what's the lesson we can take from this?

Here's what it is.  You Matter!  Yea, we said that.  But I needed to say it again to let it really sink in.  And you matter so much that if you need two months to just read historical fiction novels, work on your back stroke and golden-brown tan, as long as that means you walk into the classroom refreshed, rejuvenated and READY. TO. GO., then by all means... find that lounge chair, crank up your Kindle, and just sit.

What this also tells me is that the work you do over the summer - while keeping it manageable and light-years away from intensive - to prepare YOU for next year, is more important even than the work you do to prepare your classroom.

This tells me that working on YOU needs to come before and will even indicate the success rate of the work you do to prepare you classroom.

So what do I mean by this?  This, work on you idea?

One word - reflect.

I believe one of the most awesome aspects of what we do as educators is that each year we get a reset button.  Now, like I said, for many of us that involves margaritas and historical fiction novels to reset, but if we're being serious, it means we get to reset ourselves as educators and our classrooms.

We get to reset our focus on what's important.  We get to turn the wiper blades on our vision-windshield so to speak, getting rid of all the muck of what was blurring our vision so that we can act (drive, if I stick with the analogy here) from our foundational beliefs about our impact as educators.

What better way to do that than to reflect on the year that was - an insane one at that - and get clear on these few important concepts moving forward:

  1. What lessons-learned can I take from last year to help me/my classroom improve moving forward?
  2. What goals can I set out, with intention, for myself and my classroom for next year?
  3. Who do I want to show up as for my students next year?

Often times I think teachers are hesitant to set real goals for their classrooms each year because most of the time when we think of goals, we think of numbers, and it's hard to predict numbers as teachers when there really is no telling what group of students you'll get and where they'll start the school year.

But what about goals you can control?  And what about goals using your teacher intuition?  You know what a reasonable goal versus a stretch goal might be for your students any given year - especially if you've taught the course before.

Here's what I'm saying... call your shot.

What is your classroom going to be for your students next year?

Who will you be for your students next year?

Simple as that.

A Reflection Guide

To truly make it simple as that, I have a little something I'd like to give you that I'm hoping will help you in the process of deciding who you will show up as for your students next year.

It's my Teacher's School Year Audit: A Reflection Guide PDF, that in ten pages gives you the space to truly reflect on the areas you chose to reflect on, decide which areas you'd like to improve upon for next year (with a healthy dose of making sure those areas are ones you actually have influence on), and ultimately deciding how you'll show up for your students next year.

Print it out - click the image above - give yourself an hour (maybe more, maybe less) to sit down and really reflect on the year that was.  But don't spend too long in that mucky mess... get to the part where we learn from our year, and start thinking ahead to the next one.

And take actionable steps to make it happen.  Sure a goal is great.  But you can't just call your shot.  You have to line up your shot, re-chalk the stick, get your grip and foot placement right... take steps to make it happen.

There's space in the guide to lay those out too.

Here's the thing... you're a big deal, teacher friend. 

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

So take the time you need and decide... who will you be for your students next year?

All my best,

P.S. Join me LIVE on Facebook this Thursday, June 11th at 2pm EST for a discussion on this topic of reflection and how best to prepare yourself and your classroom for the 2020-2021 school year.


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