I wrapped up my school year nearly a month ago. The school year flew by and I am finally taking the time to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t work so well for me this year (and I don’t mean things I have no control over, like not enough snow days or making sure I don’t have to crawl into the driver’s seat from the passenger side back seat because the school’s parking lot is so tight). I am reflecting on things I tried in the classroom that worked well and what didn’t.
Let’s get the ugly out of the way.
Top 3 Losses
1. I would have paid closer attention to the existing supply list for students.
This year my homeroom group was a fourth grade group and when I taught ELA to my fifth graders, I often asked them to come to my classroom. Something I wish I had done was pay closer attention to the supply list at the beginning of the school year. Because of all of the commuting and moving around, when my fifth graders came to my classroom, someone ALWAYS forgot something in their own homeroom. It was sometimes their grammar duo-tang, it might have been their journals (copybooks) or it could have been their pencils. Either way, without fail, every single time we changed classrooms, someone would have to go back and get something. If I could have a do-over I would ask that students have binders for ELA rather than duo-tangs. This way, all student work would have been in the same place. Handouts, notes and copybooks could have all been clipped into a 1.5 inch binder and nothing (at least a lot less) would have been left behind.
2. I would have started using Google Classroom much sooner.
For those of you who do not know about Google Classroom, it is the first thing you should learn about to use in the classroom next year, particularly if you are teaching older students. Google Classroom allowed me to stay organized, to provide immediate feedback on students’ work and helped me avoid lugging school work back and forth from home so that I can revise or grade it. With Google Classroom, students can access their work from anywhere there is internet. There is no more forgetting work at school or at home. I didn’t assign homework. However, students enjoyed their assignments and working with Google Classroom so they were often motivated to toke initiative to work on their activities, written productions and to edit their work from wherever they had access to it.
Google Classroom also provides a marking book to teachers so you can keep track of grades you give to students before returning it to them (virtually, of course)
3. I would have been more organized.
I started out the school year on top of things. My desk was organized, my bookshelves were organized, student materials and manipulatives were organized and the class library looked great.
About two months into the school year, I felt like I was trying to keep my head above the mess and disorganization that was my classroom. I got lost under piles of work that needed to be reviewed, of forms I need to complete and various (10 levels, I think) of guided reading book sets. I was juggling too much and never felt like I was on top of things. I am a mom, I am a resource creator on TeacherPayTeachers, I am a “Blab-er” and I have trouble saying “no”.
To make life easier during the next school year, this is what I will do:
- I will work four days a week instead of five. I may be taking a pay cut but I will be losing in salary I will make up for in sanity. With a full day off, I will be able to check students’ work and provide prompt feedback. I will be able to take time to tidy up the classroom at the end of the day, knowing that I will have a full day in which I will be able to do errands, instead of having to do them after school.
- I will start the school year with a blank canvas.This year I was using another teacher’s classroom while she was on maternity leave. I did not feel comfortable moving things around (or out of the classroom, for that matter) because I knew she was going to return and would want the materials the way they were laid out in the classroom. Next year, I am moving back into the classroom that was mine the year before this one. This classroom will be mine! All mine! There will be nobody else’s teaching materials in the room and I will be able to organize the classroom as I see fit. Woohoo!
- I will use more technology. With more technology comes less paperwork. That’s all.
- I will not overbook.This school year I was overly ambitious. I planned too many extra-curricular activities and signed up for too many committees. Instead of enjoying them, like I had originally planned on doing, I dreaded them, because I knew there was so much work I needed to complete and not enough time to do it in. This year I will stick to less. Less is more, right? Right??
My three biggest wins:
1. I communicated effectively and consistently with families, despite strikes and pressure tactics at the beginning of the school year. See my parent communication blog post here.
2. I started the Green School Project at my elementary school. Although some were hesitant, and some resistant, almost everyone at my school got on board and involved in the Green School Project, a project that was launched with the hope of making my school community more eco-friendly and eco-literate and to practice and instill sustainable habits in all members of the community. For more information about the Green School Project, click here.
3. I became a conference presenter. I was asked to present the Green School Project at a principal’s conference this past May. I broke the ice and was asked by participants to present in their schools to their staff, as well as to school board commissioners and committee members.
I learned a lot this school year. I taught older students and I loved it. My kids this year are big hearted and good willed. I was able to do so much with them, and they shared my enthusiasm for learning more about English Language Arts, Math, Visual Arts and becoming better global citizens. Their teachers next year are very lucky people.
Next year I will be moving back downstairs to second grade. I am looking forward to working with the younger kids and seeing how much we will grow together during the 2016-2017 school year. To get a sneak peek at my teacher planner that I will be using next year, click here. You can get your own copy in my store on TeachersPayTeachers and keep your lessons and grades organized with the help of this complete and easy to use teacher planner.