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May's Teacher Success Tips

Student Transitions, Summer Plans, and Purging the Classroom

(Psst, teachers! This is ONE MONTH in my popular 12-month series! See the whole series here and have an awesome year!)

Hi Teachers, Happy May!

Don’t cheer yet but in a few short weeks, the long, sunny days of summer will be here and this school year will be a thing of the past! Try these simple ideas NOW to finish the year strong and be your best in September.

Purge Your Classroom

This is the permission you’ve been waiting for! Purge those materials you know you won’t use again. Don't wait until school is out; you'll be ready to head out and not return until August. Trust me.

Have you ever heard about the strategy of hanging your clothes in your closet... inside out... so that after one year you can see what is still inside out (what you never wore) and purge it? The same should happen in a classroom!

Let’s be honest, there are some lesson plans and supplies that haven’t been touched in years! Why do you still have them? Is it possible that at some point you’re going to come back around them? As Marie Kondo would ask adorably, “Do they spark joy?” Be honest with yourself – probably not! New curriculum, new instructional strategies, and your increasing skill as a teacher mean that those old lesson plans and materials are just cluttering your ever-evolving world.

Consider spending a few minutes each week in May purging those materials that you haven’t used in years. Scan and digitally save resources you may use in the future. Send out an email to your teammates offering up supplies that are getting in your way.

Don’t fool yourself! You will NOT come in to school this summer and finally organize those drawers or cabinets; even if you tried, custodians may have your room locked down for floor waxing or cleaning. If you haven’t used it in years, there’s a high likelihood you won’t use them in the future. If colleagues don’t want them, St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill does!

If you really don't like that idea, then at least consider uploading those files to the Drive so you can make space for the next great things to discover. Purge purge purge!

Learning Prescriptions for Students

How many times have we gotten to November and said, “Why didn’t somebody tell me that my student struggled with this?” Well, in a few short weeks, your students will be moving onto another grade, and with them goes much of the incredibly valuable information you’ve learned about them.

Consider taking a few minutes this month to pass those important learnings on to your colleagues so that students have the best chance of success! Start the conversation by writing down your reflections about each student now.

What were some strengths of the student?

How did you build a relationship with them?

In what areas do they excel, and where are they below grade-level and need extra support?

What strategies did you use to help them be more organized? Focused? Productive?

Create these reflections while they're fresh in your mind.

Many teachers (understandably) don’t like to have preconceived ideas about a student before meeting them; after all, each student responds differently to different people. And from year to year, they grow and change. To have the most helpful influence for the next teacher, first, be sure that your list is focused on academics; not just behavior. Second, hold onto this list, and once you see where that student lands, chat with your colleague and let them know you are a great resource for that student.

Many schools already have systems for strategically passing on this data. If your school doesn’t, consider adding this to your Team Leader’s agenda for next year. Continuity of care is the goal for all students!

Start the “Big Jobs” for Next Year

Are you thinking of doing something BIG next year? Taking students on a field trip? Implementing that huge service learning project or community collaboration? Now is the time to set your intentions and take steps to ensure it happens, as seamlessly as possible.

Don’t let September creep up and let your idea get buried once again. Set the ball in motion now!

Do you need to get buy-in from your building administrator?

Arrange transportation for the fall?

Get bids from field trip companies?

Secure funding from a donor or plan a fundraiser?

Do you always run out of free days in the school year to embed that sweet activity?

Identify those key dates for next year’s school calendar and lock them in now before someone else does!

One of my colleagues says, “There is no tired like teacher tired.” And teacher tired teachers tend to run out of steam, especially in that slump of December-January-February when the days are dark and the summer seems far away. Who wants to design a service learning project, from the ground up, in JANUARY? Plant those seeds now. Set yourself (and your class) up for success and adventure by taking irreversible steps now, so that next year is your best year yet!

Think About Your Evaluation

Many of us have end-of-the-year evaluations that are approaching. Spend some time reflecting on your growth this year in preparation for your conversation with your administrator.

Reflect back on the goals you set in September. How well did they go? What successes do you want to celebrate? What challenges did you face and take steps to conquer this year?

As an administrator, I appreciate when my teammates have done some reflection prior to our meeting. It demonstrates what I already know about them: they are constantly thinking about teaching and trying to improve their practice.

Spend some time thinking about your growth (and direction for next year) before that meeting. Use this meeting to set your intentions for next year, and enlist a partner (your admin) to support and encourage your growth.

Tidy Your Drives, Files and Email

Everyone has their own organization style. My computer’s Desktop is a dumping ground during the school year! That’s my default location for newly-created files, student letters of recommendation, and odds-and-ends. And my Google Drive??? Can you say, “teenager’s closet?”

May is a great time to clean up your Drive, Inbox, and your computer storage. Create folders and label them clearly! Delete (or archive) files that you’ll never use again. Be honest with yourself: you will have zero desire to tidy your Inbox over summer. I don’t blame you! But there’s no worse feeling than starting the year off, already behind or worse: buried. A tidy computer will help you work more fluidly next year when you wonder, “Now where did I put that lesson?” Take some time this month to tidy all those storage areas and start with a clean slate next year.

Plan “End of the Year” Celebrations

In a few short weeks, this year will end and summer will be here! Take some time this month to finalize ideas for saying farewell: farewell to your students, your colleagues who are moving on or retiring, and to your families. Will you give gifts to students or colleagues? Plan them now! Are you planning a classroom celebration or ritual? Take some time this month to be very planful and make your celebration one to remember!

Plan Your Summer Downtime

Yes, it’s okay to think about how you plan to take care of yourself for the summer! In fact, YOU MUST! How many of us have gotten to August and said, “What summer? Where did the time go!?” Don’t let this happen to you (again)!

Spend some time being very intentional: How you plan to recharge your batteries during the summer months? Are there places you’d like to see, weeks you’d like to block out? Projects to complete at home? Trainings or workshops you’d like to attend?

Schedule those vacations, book your overnight trips, reserve those camping spots, route your road trips, and schedule that self-care! If you play your cards right, you’ll be sitting at In-Service Week in August telling your colleagues, “I’m actually ready to be back.” Those words do come out of some of our mouths! They’re spoken by those of us who pack our summer full of recharging activities.

What are some great strategies you put into practice in May? Share them in the Comments below!

Take care!

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