Teacher Planners, Bulletin Boards, and a Focus on Wellness this month
(Psst, teachers! This is ONE MONTH in my popular 12-month series! See the whole series here and have an awesome year!)
Wait, It’s AUGUST!?
August brings with it mixed emotions for us classroom teachers. On the one hand, that first sight of school supplies in the store can bring a sinking feeling in our stomachs. “Is it time for school already!?” many of us think. We are bombarded with advertisements for back to school shopping. Everywhere we turn, there is talk about school and ready or not, here they come!
For others, the natural cycle of Summer Vacation has run its course for us educators; by August, many of us are craving the structure and routine with which we thrive during the school year. Many of us are very well rested and excited to get back into the classroom. Soon we will have the chance to put into action all those great ideas we came up with as we reflected on last school year. And I can’t even begin to summarize the sheer joy and exhilaration for those of us who have landed our first teaching job EVER! For us first-year teachers, August brings tons of enthusiasm, anxiety, curiosity, and a readiness to launch. After all, we’ve been dreaming of this career for years! Here it comes!
Regardless of which type of teacher you are — the deer-in-the-headlights, September has come too soon! Or the “I was ready to get back” type, you can take simple steps in August to ensure that you start the school year with your best foot forward. Follow these simple steps now so that when students arrive, smiling in their new school clothes and looking a year older than last, you are at your best and you have the biggest chance for success this fresh school year.
Purchase a Really Good Planner
I know…there’s nothing very alluring about starting with this suggestion, unless you’re an organization freak like many of us! Some of you are getting excited just thinking about your new planner! (You may have already bought it!) If you haven’t, then you’re not alone. Here me out on this one!
We’ve all heard the old adage (insert an eye roll if you like, or a nasally exaggerated voice)… “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Ask any successful teacher what is at the foundation of their success and many will tell you that they are highly effective planners. Or, they were highly effective planners when they first started teaching, and now it just comes to them naturally.
Therefore it’s important to get your hands on a teacher-specific planner to help you map your instruction, schedule for the inevitable, and not forget to throw in some time for yourself, too. Do a search for teacher planners, either at your local teacher supply store or online. Here are some awesome examples from Amazon and why I LOVE them!
A Few Of My Favorite Planners
My Erin Condren LifePlanner
The 10/10 planner for teachers is, hands down, Erin Condren’s Teacher Planner. Now that I’m out of the classroom, I’ve switched to the LifePlanner. You see, I wear a ton of hats in my life – principal, parent, partner. I know you can relate; many of my friends out there are also coaches, carpool drivers, single parents. Plates are FULL.
I keep my life together with my Erin Condren LifePlanner. The question I get from fellow educators all the time is, “Is it worth it?” I reply with an empathic “Oh yeah!” That’s because it has everything I need, all in one location. I’m often in meetings where a notebook just won’t cut it – my team and I are making plans, changing systems, turning aircraft carriers. My planner has never left me wishing it had something else. So yes – I buy an Erin Condren LifePlanner each year and look forward to my new one each year!
A Few Cute Planners
Now, these are just a few planners that appeal to me and my organizational style. I like them because they give me flexibility to flip from week to week, and to the big-picture of the year. It’s also awesome to have extra stickers and cute options to keep the year fun and inspiring.
Notice that I have yet to find the *ONE* planner that I give 10/10; that’s because I do a lot of work on Google Calendar, too; that’s where my school tracks all of its events. If I could have a paper-and-pen planner that ALSO shows me Google Calendar integration – I’d be overjoyed! Sounds like something out of the Jetson’s. But I can still wish.
What you are looking for is a planner that works for your style. Are you someone who likes to plan a month in advance? Several months in advance? Do you plan unit by unit, or do you like to have your whole year mapped out before you begin? How about personal tasks – are those in your work planner? Or are you someone who needs very specific plans in your planner or very general ones?
These are questions for each of us to answer on our own. If you’re a first-year teacher, you will likely develop a sense of your style within the first few months of teaching.
Regardless of your planning style, I promise that there is a planner out there for you! Find one that you really like because you will come to love it… Or at least spend countless hours with it! Think of it as your best friend, or at least your “right hand man.” That’s where you’ll find it!
Plan and Prep Your Bulletin Boards Game
Bulletin boards are a perfect example of something that takes a ton of time during in-service week! However, nothing says “Welcome Back to School” and “Welcome to Mr. Mack’s Classroom!” like a personalized, fresh bulletin board. Perhaps yours is a bulletin board that has every one of your students names on it, or funny pictures from your personal life this summer (“Wait, you weren’t at school all summer!?” ask the students).
If you are a department chair or a team leader, perhaps you are responsible for more bulletin boards than just your classroom – data snapshots or strategic priorities that need updating. There are several awesome ideas for inspiration on Pinterest, the Internet, and more.
When it comes to bulletin boards, by no means should you reinvent the wheel. But now is a great time to put your vision into action… Have you considered a bulletin board related to your favorite characters in your curriculum? Or perhaps a social emotional learning bulletin board? What about a busy corner where students can complete puzzles or a giant coloring sheet for emotional regulation?
Check out some of these AWESOME Brain Break Activities for your classroom walls!
Review Your Notes From Last Year
If you’ve been following my posts throughout the year, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of making notes throughout the year about strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth regarding lessons and instruction. Each month I suggest taking time to make a written comments about your lessons and your curriculum (hey, you can add comments right to your new fancy planner!).
August is a great time to go back and dust the cobwebs off of your notes and plan accordingly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reviewed my notes and said to myself, “Oh yeah! That’s right. That lesson flopped and kids were totally lost, so I need to come up with a different activity to teach that objective.” I recommend doing this now before you find yourself repeating the same mistake.
If you are not someone who regularly makes notes about your instruction, consider investing in a really cute notebook that inspires you, or better yet, ensure that the teacher planner you purchase has room for comments and notes. Get in the habit now so that you can put your love of life long learning into action – reflect often, and do it in writing! Future You will thank you!
Restart Your Self-Care or Exercise Routine
Summer is wonderful because many of us don’t have to think consciously about self-care and stress management. That’s because 2 1/2 months off is the best form of self-care! (If you don’t believe me, just ask my private sector friends who scrounge for 10 days off per year. They are not sympathetic to my gripes about being bored in the summer!)
My colleague likes to say that “There is no tired like teacher tired.” We all know that to be very true! When September hits, next thing we know it’s November! So it’s important that we plan and get back in the habit of how to take care of ourselves before our brain gets pulled into 120 different directions.
Perhaps you have shelved your meditation or yoga routine and traded it in for days at the beach, hikes in the woods, or road trips with friends? (Good on you!) As the school year approaches, those super fun, “What should we do today?” activities won’t be options as much as they were in the summer.
Therefore, take time in August to revisit your self-care plan. Now is a great time to tour and join that new gym by the school, or to sign up for a 10-class yoga package. What about massages and acupuncture? Are those covered by your insurance? Call now when you actually have time to wait on hold. Schedule your nail appointments, hair appointments, or other activities that you know refresh you when the going gets tough.
If you’re like me, year after year, Thanksgiving just shows up! As all of my relatives are planning what they’re bringing for the feast, I’m looking around wondering how the heck we just got here! And year after year, I’m amazed at how quickly time passed.
Therefore take some time this August to schedule your yearly physical, your eye appointment, dental cleanings, nail appointments and more. Get those massages on the books and invest in that 10-punch pass to yoga. Make it automatic – your future self will thank you tremendously!
Shop for Classroom Essentials
The one great thing about all those back to school sales is that the sales are perfect for teachers, too! All those things that you need to successfully run your classroom – extra notebooks, loose leaf, pens for days, highlighters, dry erase markers, folders, and more… Pencil sharpeners, pencil lead, Sharpie markers, large dry erase boards… All of the supplies are sold en masse through stores for both school-age students and college students heading off to dorms. This means deals for you, too! If you are fortunate enough to have a teacher stipend for classroom supplies, now is a great time to spend those dollars while the sales are great. Believe it or not, my first few years of teaching I got a $250 Visa card from my district to purchase whatever I needed for my classroom! Long gone are those days! But I digress.
Don’t Forget Amazon Prime for TEACHERS!
If you’re reading this in time, then be sure to visit Amazon’s Prime Back to School Deals Page here. They have INCREDIBLE back-to-school deals for teachers. Discounts on school supplies, organizers, furniture, tech needs and more are just the beginning on this “Summer Black Friday.”
I’ve compiled the top list of teacher must-haves for you! Check out my list here.
Time to Get ORGANIZED!
Consider your organizational strategies in your classroom. What’s missing? What gives you a headache? Do kids bottleneck at the Outbox? Are notebook checks a disaster each week? Do you plan to start interactive notebooks this year on the second day of school? Do you have extras for those students who can’t afford one? Do you have binders, organizational tabs, sticky notes?
Take some time to plan your shopping list now and search out the sale prices so that you can maximize your hard-earned dollars. Better yet, if your department is afforded a budget, get that list ready for Day 1! That way your supplies are covered on your school’s dime; don’t miss the boat. (Here’s my TOP purchase idea if your school has some money to spend!)
Have you considered adding new centers or shelves in your classroom? Many of us already know that IKEA is a great place to shop for new organization furniture. Perhaps a trip is in order this August so that you can acquire your new furniture and be ready to start when students arrive on day one.
(My Favorite!) Plan Your Vacations
The BEST advice I can give to you, my fellow educator, is this: If you haven’t already, planned the year’s vacations in August! Future You will be so grateful that you did.
Total Disclosure: I’ve been caught up in those busy months where, next thing I know, everybody is heading off for a fabulous President’s Day weekend and I am so far behind that I plan to spend it grading papers! Don’t get me wrong, Survival Mode is real and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But there’s something very cool about taking time now to plan vacation so that Future You can get the rest and relaxation you need in order to survive this overwhelmingly challenging job. When I know I have a vacation coming and no time to grade…it’s funny…I seem to find time during the day to get it all done! Hmmm….
Take some time now to look at your school district’s calendar, which has already been adopted by your school board. Now that you have the school calendar at your fingertips, you know when you can schedule vacation! Woohoo!
My go-to travel site is Expedia; their packages and deals are top-notch. Take some time to research vacation rentals in the town you’ve been dreaming of visiting. Buy those concert tickets, say “yes” to the flights!
Don’t get caught up in the StayCation rut. I don’t know your financial situation but I’ve been known to buy the non-refundable part of my trip now so that I am committed – no backing out now! Early in my teaching career, I may or may not have put those on my credit card, just to make it happen. In the end, it was always worth it.
Your Best Year Yet!
I sincerely hope that this year is your BEST YEAR YET! Parents are sending us the best kids they have, and I’m sure they’re going to be amazing. I hope you find time this August to squeeze the last drops of daylight and sunshine out of your vacation. Teachers who are rested and ready at in-service are obvious! I hope these tips help you feel more prepared for the coming year. Happy teachers = happy classrooms = healthier kids! Thanks for your service! And don’t forget to spend time reflecting when the going gets tough this school year! Leave a comment below – what are some strategies you do in August to help you feel prepared for September? How do you relax? Maximize your time off? Happy teaching and learning! Check out next month’s Teacher Survival Tools HERE!