Monday, February 8, 2010

Anticipating a New Year

As I've mentioned before, I'm not teaching this year because my husband's job caused us to relocate to another state for 10 months. (Well, a year, but I'll only be there for 10 months...). I'm using the time to finish my master's degree. But now, as it approaches the time for me to get back on the job market, I find myself increasingly anxious to get back in the classroom and prepare for next year. Assuming that I return to my former school (which seems likely), I have a good idea what grade level I'll be teaching and what the curriculum will entail. This definitely makes my early preparation easier.

Based on what I've been working on so far, here are some suggestions for how to prepare for a new teaching assignment:

1. Familiarize yourself with the teaching standards. I'll be teaching in Georgia which uses the Georgia Performance Standards.

2. Pick a content area, and read everything you can get your hands on. In my case, I'm incredibly interested in literacy, and I've already amassed an enormous book collection on topics related to reading and writing instruction. I'm poring through those as fast as I can to enhance my expertise on the topic. When I get tired of that topic or feel like I have everything well mapped out, I'll move onto another subject area.

3. Make to-do lists as you read and write yourself reminders. It's only February now, and I won't be in my classroom until August. That's too much time to remember everything! I'm using the web-based program Remember the Milk to make my to-do list.

4. Don't wait to write lesson plans. If you come across something that you want to use later, write it up! Even if it's vague or missing specific details like which text you'll use for the mini-lesson, those details will be easy to fill in later on. It's better to at least get something written. I'm using Evernote to organize my ideas. As I come across interesting lesson plans, I put them in a new note and tag them with the standards that seem relevant to the lesson. Later, I'll be able to sort my ideas by standard to find what I'm looking for.

5. Start building your Professional Learning Network (PLN). I've been pleasantly surprised by the interactions I've had with other educators on Twitter, and I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of the amazing learning communities at Two that I'd strongly recommend are The English Companion Ning and The Educators PLN.

6. Immerse yourself in children's literature. If you're going to be an expert on reading, you need to know the content as well as how to teach it. The great thing about children's books is that I can read them much faster than adult literature, so it's less of a challenge to read several.

7. Be at peace with the idea that no matter how early you start to put things together, you'll never be able to get everything done before the children arrive in August/September. Every year I try, and every year, I don't quite get there. And I've never met a teacher who does. There will always be one more book/poster/chart/project/manipulative that I want to read or make, but until I become superhuman or learn how to stop time, it probably won't happen.

Teachers: Are there other suggestions that you have for things to do in anticipation of a new school year when you're still several months away from the start?

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