Well it is that time of year again. Back to school. Can you smell the freshly sharpened pencils??? I know I can. Except this year is unlike any other because well 2020 has been a dumpster fire. As you all know I currently teach in a 3-5th grade self-contained and to say that I am feeling all of the emotions this back to school season is an understatement. I want more than anything to get back into my classroom, my happy place, but is it safe?
I know that I am guilty of over prepping each summer in hopes that my school year won’t be as chaotic, but how do you prepare for a school year that is going to look differently regardless of being in person or at home to teach from a distance. So my friend Kim (from Little Ms. Kim’s Class) and I have decided to bring some quick tips to you via instagram (more on that later) on how you can prepare while still refreshing your mind and soul during the summer of 2020.
Keeping a loose schedule for myself keeps me from constant Netflix binges and feeling like I’ve wasted my summer. I thrive on being productive. That can be school stuff, social outings, organizing my closet however I really really love T.V. Anyone that knows me knows I can watch Bravo all day long–Where are my Bravoholics at??!! So I use my planner and make a simple to do list of things I would like to get done each day. This list usually consists of any errands I need to run, working out on my #notapeloton Peloton, taking the puppy somewhere, or spending time with friends and family. I will be honest that I rarely get everything done on that list before I decide to sit and binge on my latest Netflix or Hulu show, but it helps me get somethings done! Now, for the BUT. It is in my type A style to be scheduled and prepared for everything BUT it is summer and as a teacher we are given the gift of time. SO as my favorite NY Housewife says: Come from a place of YES. If someone asks you to do something fun—throw the schedule out the window and say YES!
A friend asks you to go on a boat— YES!
Your sister wants to get a pedicure—YES!
Your dog is extra cuddly and want to nap– HELL YES!
A schedule in the summer helps me feel like I got the most out of my time off BUT I am very happy to throw mundane tasks like deep cleaning my bathroom with bleach and powdered TIDE to get some sun on the lake!
This one is simple. Only prep what you prefer over the summer. If you love to laminate and Velcro all the tasks then do it! Your summer is precious and you should plan and organize your most preferred tasks during this time! I personally love to set up my data sheets and curriculum mapping. They make me feel accomplished and well versed on my students needs. Read this over and over again: Do things you enjoy during the summer. All of your stressful, boring, mundane, or anxiety inducing tasks can wait until the start of the school year when you have the help of your paraprofessional!
Speaking of mapping out curriculum! I have my masters in curriculum and instruction so it is a true passion of mine to take the common core standards and make sure I am able to give my students with significant disabilities access to those skills at their level! Using a year at a glance or curriculum map is something that your future self will thank you. I am not saying you should lesson plan every day or plan out each week, but setting up the themes for each month, organizing the resources you use year after year in a document which will help the detailed lesson planning you do each week during the school year. I wrote a blog post about how I curriculum map for the year which you can read more about here
Here is a little glimpse of my curriculum map template!
I break my map into 6 topics for each month: Holidays and Themes, Reading/ELA, Gramma & Spelling, Math, Science & Social Studies, and Life & Social Skills. If you want an editable version of this curriculum map you can click here
Don’t worry it is FREE!
This is probably the least fun of all of the tips, but it is so necessary. I feel more confident as a teacher if I have my students IEP goals engrained in my mind. This helps when mapping out the curriculum, purchasing resources, making resources, etc. I make individual data sheets for my students and my biggest tip is KEEP IT SIMPLE! Have the data clearly identified, any tips for taking the data if paras help you out, and an easy way to track scores (i.e; +/-). I try to write goals with only running records, checklists, or curriculum based measures for collecting data so I don’t have to deal with making a million copies of work samples! There are so many data templates out there, but in all honesty the ones that worked the best for me were simple data sheets with no frills and were 100% tailored to my students goals.
I don’t know about you, but when I am deep in the school year I rarely leave my classroom. This is not a great habit I got into, but I really hate to work on the weekends and evenings so the only way I could get all my prep, IEP writing, and general classroom organizing in was to work thru lunch and planning. Working in a self contained room is already isolating so skipping out on lunch with your colleagues can make you feel even more isolated. I try to make an effort to eat lunch with my colleagues for at least 15-20 minutes to form connections and know what is going on in the general ed world, but I also continue that thru the summer. It is so important to grab a drink or a bite to eat with a teacher friend to catch up on life–it is seriously good for the soul and helps to set up a collaborative work environment. I am so lucky to LOVE the team that I work with currently, but I haven’t always been lucky–Just like your relationships with your students is important getting to know your colleagues outside of the classroom is important as well.
Over the summer another very important task I try to accomplish is a get together with the paraprofessionals assigned to my room. In my district they are only contracted to work during student hours. This makes it super difficult to fill them in on student needs, get to know them and their family life, classroom procedures, and generally just bond together. Try to make some time to get lunch or go for a walk with your paras. If they are new to your classroom they will appreciate the gesture and if the are not new, it is a great way to reconnect after a few weeks or months apart!
I hope you all enjoyed these simple tips! If you want to learn more head over to my instagram page and join Little Ms. Kim’s Class
for a series of Instagram lives on Tuesdays! We will be talking about all things special education and focusing on a new topic each week! Can’t wait to see you there!