I came back to my classroom this week. We are required to be here on Friday, but I started Monday. Why start early? Well...as most teachers work on updating their curriculum, classrooms, or just dive into professional development during the summer, I don't. I need the break...and I have three little kids at home ages 6, 4, and 1 1/2. I'm busy enough. I can barely keep up with laundry and dishes, let alone make time for school. Plus...it's easier to start back with daycare on a Monday. And as you'll see in this post, I'm all about making life easier.
Seriously. My goal this year is to NOT become overwhelmed and stressed with things that aren't important right now. And it started yesterday when I walked into my classroom and started moving my tables.
I have a weird sense of calmness about this year, that I don't normally have. I think it's because I'm starting to do some small things that help me keep from getting in over my head. I thought I'd share some tips. Some are mine, some are from other teachers, and some are from friends in other industries that keep VERY busy schedules.
Make your list. What HAS to be done today, by then end of the week, and what can honestly wait until Christmas?
This is one that I have taken to heart and fully practice. You see. I have a cabinet that needs to be cleaned out and organized. It needed it back in May, but my "gotta get to summer break" brain just piled more things in there so I could check off my list and head out the door. Now that I'm back, it STILL needs to be organized. But ya know what? It's not walking through my door in a week ready to learn. I have lesson plans to get ready, copies to make, and projects to prepare for. Those come first. IF I get everything that HAS TO BE DONE by the first day of school done, then I'll tackle the cabinet. If not...it'll have to wait.
Do you have student aids? Do you have students who always finish early and need/want something to keep busy? What from your "to-do" list can students do for you?
This is where some teachers get stuck in the struggle of getting it all done. How picky are you about how things look? If you can "let go" of some of the perfection, your teacher-life will be much easier.
Have a Student Directed Classroom
This one is huge. Let your students do the work for you. How should your room be arranged this year? How about letting your kids decide? What posters need to go on the wall, anchor charts to make? Let your kids make them. Think about it. What better way to have them learn about the "rules of commas" than to have them make the informative poster that goes on the wall. Yeah, it probably won't be as pretty as yours...but it will be there's. The students will have a stake in the classroom. They'll feel like they're truly welcome.
What can you "Let go of" and pass on to students in order to keep some August sanity?!?!
Be Goggle Focused
I learned this one outside the world of education...but boy is it helpful. You know how we get sidetracked and end up working on five different things at one time? Well...that's actually a huge time-suck. You end up leaving the day with five things started and none of them finished.
Solution: Put your Goggles on. When a swimmer swims laps, he/she isn't very effective if they're not wearing their goggles. They eye-wear helps them reach their destination. Take that same logic with your classroom. Put your "goggles" on and focus on ONE task, ONE destination, ONE goal. Accomplish it and move on to the next. You'll be amazed at how fast you are able to get your list crossed off when you tackle it one at a time and not all at once.
Stick to Six
This one, I just recently learned about. I like the idea of it and I'm going to give it a shot. Pick six. Six things that you're going to put on your list. ONLY six. Prioritize those and go for it! Get that list all checked off. You'll feel accomplished and productive. But what if you have a lot to do? Pick six. Get those done...use your "Goggles" and just get those done. Tomorrow, make a new list.
Pick Your Battles:
This is sort of up there with prioritizing, but with a different mindset. My advice here is to not stress about the things that you don't have any control over. For example. I need to make classroom seating charts, but I can't do that until I have a class list. Now, I know I won't get a class list until at least Monday, at the earliest and that the seating chart is going to be probably one of the things I do on my last work-day before kids. No need to have it on my list yet. No need to stress about it.
Tech issues? This is where coming in early has it's benefits. Go seek out some tech help with printing, your smart board, or whatever before the entire staff is chasing after the tech support!
Don't Fix it if it Ain't Broke:
Year after year, I get caught up in the race of trying to make everything better than I did it last year. I end up filling my plate with new tasks, when the previous lessons were perfectly fine. This year, I'm attempting to do a better job of making small, but powerful adjustments when needed and focusing my energy in other places. I have some really great lessons and activities that will still be great this year. They don't need to change today. But my Constitution Unit needs some changes...that means I'll focus on the place where change is needed and not changing everything.
This holds true for bulletin boards. Unless you have a rule in your school that bulletin boards need to change every month and be theme based and Pinterest Pretty, don't. My bulletin boards stay the same every year because they are based on the learning in the classroom. They are tools for the students to use. I just cover them with paper before going off in the summer and rip it down when I get back. No need to hassle with the paper, cute boarders, or spending hours cutting out letters.
Stop Comparing Yourself with Other Teachers:
Stop it. Just stop. Don't feel like you have to "keep up" with the teacher down the hall or that awesome teacher you follow on Social Media. Focus on you, your strengths and go from there. What's important to you and your classroom. Do you need to make improvements somewhere? Sure...we all do, but focus on how you can improve in those areas using your strengths to help you.
I hope that some of these suggestions help you with the start of your school year. Don't stress what doesn't need to be stressed and relax. It's going to be a great year! Let's do this!