Notable Notes: Planning ahead while wrapping up

All, Notable, Teaching

Winding down this semester is bittersweet for me. A part of me is always excited to be on the downward slide of the semester. I am tired of the grind and ready for a break yet excited to see the many interesting and exciting projects my students have cooking. Another part is sorry to say good-bye to a group of students who have been a part of my life – especially as some of these students have been with me for three classes now (one of the perks of teaching at an extended campus). But, oh the guilt, a part of me is excited to be done with these classes to start with clean, fresh classes in the fall. I dearly love that part of teaching: dreaming and planning. I love teaching in general, but there is something very exciting about the process of building on what you have learned to create something new and different. How soon do you begin planning for the next class, semester, or year?

According to a survey by Teachnology, teachers tend to fall into two groups – those who begin planning before the school year ends and those who plan about a month before the start of school – of course, we all know teachers who cannot begin planning because their teaching situation is unsettled – sometimes until after the start of the school year – but we all know what kind of teacher we are. Which kind are you?

I tend to be the long-term planner. I try to keep notes throughout the year about little tweaks to the calendar or assignments and to save big ideas with more detailed ideas to think about when I have the time, but the single biggest thing I like to do is to ask my students. I ask my students to reflect throughout the semester and one of the questions I always ask them to think about (after every unit) is how the class could be better. At the end of the semester I ask them that question again as well as administering a short survey targeting the goals I care about the most and asking for their input regarding the issues that I’m struggling to address. This information is crucial for me as I begin planning my next semester, because, after all, who is best suited to give you feedback than the very people who just completed that journey with you? I will spend time before putting this semester to bed thinking about the big picture and my goals for the fall semester. I don’t have time in May and June to put those plans in motion because I am a NWP site director (which means May and June are busy busy busy!) but I like to think about what I want to change or create. I try to use the Profhacker 3×3 method at the very minimum.

Petra Claflin offers up some great tips for teachers and administrators in “Closing Out vs. Fading Out: 5 Steps for Ending the Year Strong” that are good strategies no matter how many years you have in the profession. I really like this idea: “closing the year strong with positive, actionable takeaways will ensure that teachers walk away feeling empowered, inspired, and ready to come back even stronger next year!” I couldn’t agree more!

Hot Chalk also offers up some great tips for taking advantage of summer to plan and research for the new school year, but it means that you need to spend time setting goals before you wrap up this year!

I really like the Profhacker 3×3 method, but if you don’t have the time or energy (I understand completely) at this point in the school year then why not give Larry Ferlazzo’s simple one-question prompt a try? He simply asks himself this question: how can I become a better teacher for my students? That is a question we all need to ask ourselves on a regular basis, but it is certainly fertile ground to consider as we plan how we will learn and grow over the break and how we will begin the next school year. What Will You Do Differently Next School Year?

Bob Lenz and Terry Heick, both of Edutopia, offer some great tips to help you grow and learn this summer. When do you begin planning your next school year? What are your favorite tips for a productive reinvention of your classroom?

Artwork by Leo Reynolds on Flickr

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