Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Setting The Stage For A Great School Year

Back when I was in the classroom this was the most exciting time of the year for me. I always enjoyed heading back to school more than any other time. Getting back in my classroom and getting things set back up, buying new supplies and planning for all the great things I learned over the summer were just some of things that excited me. I couldn’t wait for kids to get back in school and for learning to start again.

While back to school can be a fun time it can also be a challenge. It should be a time where we set the stage for a great year. However, there is always so much going on and so many things to do it’s easy to get bogged down in the weeds of endless meetings, paperwork and lesson planning.

There are many things you can do to help yourself and your kids at the start of school to have a great year. Here are just a few.

Get Connected
-One of the most important ways an educator can grow and learn is to get connected. Reading blogs, contributing to an online community or checking out a Twitter Chat are all ways that you can hear about the good things that are happening in other classrooms/schools and learn from others. These places can also serve as a virtual sounding board when you run into a problem or need a solution. Coming up in October is Connected Educator Month so there are many opportunities to learn how to be a connected educator including book studies and free webinars. And speaking of books (shameless plug) you can check out my book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning that can help guide your connected learning.

Create A Virtual Classroom-My school website was the way that I let the world know what we were learning in our classroom. I could post notes from class, any files students needed, use the calendar to post homework and curate a list of resources for students to use outside of class. It’s important today to create a virtual space for your classroom. Some districts provide a website for educators to do this, while others allow them to create their own. There are a wide variety of products out there (like Edmodo or Schoology) to do this so spend some time finding one that suits your needs. You’ll also want to examine how you can extend conversations from your classroom to the virtual spaces as well. Taking your classroom into the cloud allows you to create a private space to post questions, comments, blogs and more. These online spaces allow learning to happen not just in the schoolhouse but after hours as well.

Set Goals And Reflect Often-As an educator it’s important to reflect on the previous years, the high points and the low points. Use those reflections to build personal and professional goals for the new year. Maybe you want to learn a new technology skill or challenge yourself to grade differently. Whatever your goals, make them actionable and reachable. Students can do the same. Set aside time to have students create learning and personal goals they want to accomplish throughout the year. Develop a plan to check in regularly and report back. Using something like Google Docs or Forms makes collecting and sharing those goals easy. Or if you want to take it to the next level, using Recap, students can record those goals through video as part of a larger portfolio to keep track of their learning all year.

Add Something New To Your Technology Toolkit-Odds are over the summer you learned about something new to try in your classroom. The beginning of the year can actually be a great time to think about new ways to integrate technology into learning. One of the tools I learned about this summer is EdTech Software. This is a textbook ebook solution for the classroom. If you use any kind of adopted textbook the EdTech Software can organize all those companion ebooks into a shelf for students so they can access them easily. But it’s much more than that. We know many textbooks aren’t all that flexible. With Shelfit you can supplement with videos, links and other resources to extend the ability of that static textbook and provide a customized learning experience for students. You can check out what it can do here and sign up for a free trial.

Establish Relationships-Getting to know my students was the first thing I did every year I taught. There was always that pressure to get started with the content but I found that if I made connections with my students, I could more easily teach them. I understood who they were, their passions, and their interests. Take the first few days to learn who your students are. The time taken will pay off in the end. And keep those relationships going. Schedule time to talk with students 1-on-1 as often as you can. Even a simple conversation in the morning or in the hall can prove to be beneficial.

Remember, this really is an exciting time of year. Take time to enjoy it!

What are your favorite ways to get ready for a new school year? Leave some thoughts below. 

photo credit: Homeschool Supplies via photopin (license)
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