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Just IMAGINE what it would be like if you could come back to your classroom in the fall - and it was all ready for you.
What if you had a classroom fairy who came in, and with the wave of her wand, you had all of your supplies neatly stocked, and your teacher’s desk was organized and ready to go?
What if your first week plans were all done - photocopied and prepped, and your bulletin boards were beautiful and ready to go?
Now, of course there is no such thing as a classroom fairy, but this is the kind of thing you can do for yourself that you are going to absolutely love yourself for.
I know, because I learned to do this for myself every year before I left for summer break, and when I came back to my classroom in the fall, I actually cried with gratitude for the kindness I had shown to myself because of what I did to make back to school so much easier on myself.
I think we need to start practicing ways we can be kinder to ourselves in this profession.
Whether you’re in your first year of teaching or you’re in your 21styear, this is an ongoing struggle for us as teachers.
We are really good at taking care of our students and doing all we can to ensure their happiness and success, and I’d love to invite you to think about shining that amazing light inward for just a little while and giving yourself just a little bit of the sunshine you spend every day pouring into those lucky kids.
So, I would encourage you to be your own best friend and give yourself the incredible gift of thinking ahead to make coming back to school in the fall just a little easier.
Here are the eight things I did, and that you can do too, before you leave for your summer break to really help reduce your back-to-school stress:
Although it can be hard to find the time to do this at the end of the school year, I encourage you to find a way to do this now. It's amazing how quickly our minds turn off anything classroom-related once we head into summer break, so doing this now (when you are acutely aware of what you need) will prepare you for when back to school sales hit in August - you won't have to try to remember what you need!
I posted this list on the side of my filing cabinet or somewhere where I would easily be able to find it when those late summer flyers and specials come out. 😊
I talk about how I enlist the help of my students to take down my bulletin boards in Episode #8 where I share 25 Fun and Easy Ways to Manage Spring Fever in Your Classroom. If you show responsible pairs of students how to use a staple remover and teach them to ensure they catch any staples that fall, it’s a pretty easy job for them to do and they just love it.
Even if your school does not allow you to leave anything on the walls over the summer break, I always had all of my bulletin boards planned out and ready to go so that in the fall, all I have to do is put them up, which is one less thing that I had to think about when I headed back to school with summer brain.
Too often, I see beginning teachers putting WAY too much time and effort into creating the Pinterest Worthy Classroom, and I would really encourage you to be focused and intentional about how you use your time decorating your classroom.
One great way that I always had a back-to-school bulletin board instantly ready for next year was to invite my current students to write letters to next year’s class.
My students really enjoyed telling future students what they loved about being in my classroom, what they need to be careful of (this is always hilarious), and some of the highlights of the year, including field trips we took, subjects or topics of study they loved, or even awesome rewards they can work for in my classroom.
Putting these letters on display at the beginning of the year is such a wonderful way to welcome in new students and it helps to reinforce the expectations I will be teaching them that first week of school, all while giving me an instant bulletin board at the beginning of the school year!
Think about making your bulletin boards as simple as possible so you aren’t changing them often and creating extra work for yourself throughout the year.
And if it didn’t work well for me, I would take pictures and write notes to myself about how I wanted to set it up differently the next year. I would completely forget otherwise!
Again, just like my back to school shopping list, I would post this wherever I knew I’d be able to easily find it again.
It’s amazing how our minds just forget all of those little details once we are in summer break, but I really didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes in the following year.
You know that expression, “A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind?”
It really is weird how when I clean things up – even digital files - and declutter my computer helps me to feel like I can truly have a fresh start the next year.
Then, I create a new folder for the next school year and duplicate anything I will need, but will need to keep separate.
Next, I organize and delete old emails.
I learned to take the time to do this at the end of the school year so I can come back fresh in the fall without the heavy weight of 1,000 emails in my inbox.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but whenever I get too much email, I literally feel the weight of it - and there’s nothing worse than coming back to a fresh, new year, and the first thing you see is a nasty old email from one of those parents you are happy to see NOT in your classroom this year.
Oh man we could talk for days about that one – and I have a feeling that we probably will in future episodes!
Although of course we have janitors/custodians at our school, taking the extra time and care to leave my classroom space beautiful and requiring less effort for the custodial staff went a long way towards gaining favor for when I really needed their help later in the school year... like when that kid throws up and you really need their assistance immediately!
If you’ve done little things like this for them not only at the end of the year but throughout the year, they really remember your acts of kindness and are more than willing to help when you really need them.
I would have my class do a deep clean as an act of kindness, and then leave thank-you notes for the custodial staff one day on the last week of school.
Doing this not only gained favor with my custodian, but it also taught my students a valuable lesson about thinking of others, about gratitude, and about respecting the hard work they do to keep our school beautiful and clean.
It’s kind of weird, but I actually find that preparing for back-to-school week at the end of the year for the following fall MUCH easier than when I tried to do it in the fall after a long summer break because I was already used to planning every week.
I always find it SO much harder to get back into the swing of things in the fall, and it seems to take me five times longer to do everything because I’m just not in the routine again yet of planning for every week.
So on the last week of school, I plan just as I would as if the first week of school were the following week.
It’s just one more week in the school year, but then you have a jump start on the fall when the line-up for the photocopier is at an all-time high...
Gather all of the supplies you will need, including books and resources, do all of your copying for the first week, and put it all in a box or a plastic bin clearly labeled “The First Week of School."
If there are any things you will need to buy or get that are consumable, put a bright sticky note on top of everything with a list of whatever else you need that you haven’t gotten yet.
That way when you come back in August or September with “summer brain” you won’t need to think too hard to get back into the swing of things!
I had developed a HUGE substitute binder folder over the years that I taught that I could just pull from whenever I was sick, so I highly recommend that you get intentional about developing a substitute teacher station or binder now while you’re healthy.
This was another one of those moments - when I suddenly came down with the flu or a sinus infection, and was so grateful to myself for taking the time to prepare these sub plans in advance. 💛
I learned my lesson the hard way – I remember when I was only teaching half-time in my first year and I came down with a really nasty cold, and it took me two hours to plan for a sub for two hours of teaching because I was so sick and couldn’t even think straight. Don’t ever do that!
The great thing is that there are loads of great resources you can check out on Teachers Pay Teachers that offer ready-made sub plan folders, so there’s no need to re-create the wheel.
Instead, spend an hour or so searching for highly reviewed sub plans that you think will work for you, and get this resource ready right away.
Here's a link to some of the sub plan packets you might want to check out on Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Browse/Search:sub%20plans
In my classroom, I used a a clear plastic folder for my students to kept all of the information items in they brought to and from school every day: Their agendas, communication books for parents, and daily homework if you send daily homework – these can all be prepared in advance and placed into your “Back to School” bin, so all you need to do is put students’ names on them and you’re ready to go when you come back in the fall!
Especially if you are planning as a team at your grade level, think about preparing and photocopying next year’s homework packets now so they are ready to go in the fall.
And that's it! I hope that hearing about how I was intentional about planning for my next year really helped me to get off on a great start in the fall.
Let's Review the 8 Things to Do Before Leaving for Summer Break:
Remember – just because you are a beginning teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one.
Finally, if you are getting a ton of value from this podcast and blog I would deeply appreciate it if you would be willing to leave a positive review. 💛
Just open the podcast in iTunes, click on the “Ratings and Reviews” tab and then click on “Write a Review.” I would be so grateful!
I hope you have a wonderful week, and I can’t wait to connect with you again soon!
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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