I know that I am guilty of over prepping each summer in hopes that my back to school season won’t be as chaotic, but how do you prepare for a back to school after the past three years of pandemic teaching? Well I am here to help you with all your back to school needs so you can feel refreshed and prepared!
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! I am a certified Bravoholic!
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 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! A refreshed and happy you will be the best version of you this back to school season!
This one is simple. Only prep what give you joy for back to school. 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 the best tool to prep for back to school, especially as a self contained special education teacher!
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 get it in my FREE Resource Library!
This is probably the least fun of all of the tips, but it is so necessary. I feel more confident as a special education teacher if I have my students IEP goals fresh in my mind. This helps when mapping out the curriculum, purchasing resources, making resources, etc. I make individual data sheets for my students. Just remember to 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; +/-). In all honesty the data sheets that worked the best for me were simple, 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 special education classroom 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!