Happy Monday! I know many of you will be looking toward back to school time in just a few short weeks. I just got the official email telling us our rooms are clean and ready for action, so I know summer is coming to an end all too soon.
#1) Update your Meet the Teacher letter.
For you new teachers, it is time to draft one of these! Seems silly, but 10-15 minutes you will spend come August are PRIME TIME! Once that summer staff development hits, the to-do list seems to grow a mind of its own. Therefore, take a few minutes now to look over that letter you send home with students the first day of school (or at school supply drop-off…or whenever) to be sure it still represents you and gives families the first impression you want them to have. You are much more likely to find areas to update when you aren’t stressed with the list of 500 other things to print, laminate, and prepare.
#2) Decide on an organizational system…or evaluate the one you have.
I personally keep a binder to help me track everything. It isn’t the prettiest thing ever…seriously, now that I look at it, the cover needs some serious help. YIKES! I am actually going to go fix it right now…it’s really that bad.
Ok, done. I always go low-ink to save myself money or the campus ink…depending on where I am when I get to print. So here is my new cover.
I am going to work to update the inside of my binder and remove the info from this year’s students, but here is the general overview of what I have inside. Once it is finished, I will dedicate a longer, more detailed post to this topic, but for now, and overview will have to do. First, I have 2-3 plastic folder pockets. I use these for handouts, papers that aren’t binder ready, and stuff I need to laminate. Basically, it is the catch-all. Behind that you’ll find the yearly calendar. I got mine from KindergartenWorks. The editable version lets me type in all my important dates (breaks, testing, etc.) before the school year starts. Then I print it off and the rest gets written in by hand. (Hint: Hole punch the pages so the calendar opens flat and you can see it all at a glance like mine below.)
After that I have sections for my plans (which contains the year at-a-glance up until I start planning), an assessment and grading section (which includes my BOY data sheet and once I know my students’ names my grade tracker), a student information section (which I use to keep all the information forms I get from the parents at the beginning of the year organized by student), and an information section (for notes, duty schedules, and other stuff).
#3) Update your Website…or create one if you don’t have one!
I cannot tell you enough how much this has helped me. I have a bit more to adjust, and there will inevitably be some new things to add once I sit down in a staff meeting or three, but having this piece of the puzzle off my plate is a lifesaver. It truly is one of the first impressions the world (AKA your new families) gets of you as a teacher. Spending a little time in July between relaxation means you can really focus your energies on making it great. I, personally, use Blogger, as my district drank the “Google Kool-aid”. However, there are lots of great free sites to set up a website, if you don’t yet have one.
About a year ago, I decided it was worth it to plop down some cash and bought an inexpensive pre-made template from the lovely Emily at Blogaholic Designs (In case you are looking, she was fabulous. I had a small issue on my end because I like to think I am more techy than I am, and she was able to quickly and easily remedy it. I HIGHLY recommend her.) Here’s a little peek into what my class blog looks like:
This year I am really focusing on ensuring that I have working links on my student links pages (the icons on the left designed inspired by Ladybug Teacher Files), and I am spending some time writing short descriptions for all the units I teach (which will go under the what we’re learning section). This will allow me to cut and paste the paragraph that gives the parents background about the standards and add in details about the projects and activities we’ll be doing throughout the year. The parents love to be up-to-date, and I can spend more of my time focused on adding pictures rather than writing (for the tenth year) what we are doing in each subject.
#4) Prep Your Back to School/Parent Night Presentation
Again, I have to give a shout out to Ladybug Teacher Files for making this one a snap! I used her super adorable, editable template (which you can get for free here) and made it my own. It took some time, and there will always be things to adjust each year, but now I am able to tweak and adjust vs. reinvent the wheel each year. I also had a few slides of my own (and thankfully the same set of clip art that she used)…I call them my bonus slides, and they are based on my campus and personal philosophies.
First, I added a technology slide. We use a lot of technology in my room (and at my campus, in general). As a result many of the parents come ready to ask questions related to what their child will be doing on the technology. This helps me prevent a slew of those questions at the end. I also added slides about enrichment and PBL, both of which are campus initiatives. Finally, I added a slide to get parents to sign up for Remind 101. This let them do it right then and there…saving me LOTS of time and explanation. Finally, I added the Before you go slide. This was left up on the screen and reminded parents of what I needed from them before they left.
This year, I will be adjusting some things and making some clarification on items parents asked a lot about last year, but this still should only take me a half-hour or so. I will also probably put together my forms and other papers into parent file folders so maybe an hour and a half, tops!
#5) Organize Your Pins
I am sure you are all on Pinterest pinning all the amazing ideas you plan to implement next year. However, if you are like me, you never get around to half of them because the pin gets buried somewhere and you never see it again until you’ve just finished teaching that unit you wanted to use the idea for…Murphy’s Law, right? Well, now is the time to get organized. It’s July. You’re on Pinterest anyways. Spend 15-20 minutes deciding what you can do to organize your boards for usability. Right now I have my boards sorted by subject. I can tell you right now, it isn’t working. We get to place value, and I remember that cute activity I wanted to try, and 30 minutes of searching later I end up getting distracted by another math idea. Therefore, I am going to start breaking my pins down by subject and unit…or maybe by standard. Haven’t quite fleshed this one out yet. Either way, it will be much easier for me to find (and use) my pins in my classroom with far less digging with a fine tooth comb.
So there you have it. Five things that can help you ease the hustle and bustle of the beginning of the year! Why not get a few things checked off the to-do list now?