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Spring Teacher Proactive Prep: Top 3

Spring makes me think of vacations, flowers, and lazy days outdoors with family. Like the students, it is beginning to get harder to stay focused at work and Spring Fever has taken hold! But we cannot allow our inner sloth to take over… not yet at least! 🙂 This is the best time to start thinking about next school year and begin to work towards meeting those goals.

Wait? Next year already? Yes!

The biggest misconception I had as a new teacher was thinking that I would have plenty time to establish my classroom perfectly in the 5 days before the students arrived. With the many interruptions and wasted time thinking about what I wanted to do, I was always scrambling around at the last minute before Sneak-A-Peek on the last day of pre-planning.

Your administrators will probably have a set agenda for the week prior to the first day of school. Good administrators will be empathetic towards giving you more time in your classroom, but be prepared to have your remaining hours spent attending district, building, and team meetings. Even though there will not be as much time as you may have hoped for (is there ever enough?) I want you to start off the year relaxed, happy, and feeling accomplished! Practical TipDo you already use Pinterest to organize your ideas and inspiration? Go ahead and start use it intentionally for your classroom planning as well! Throughout this post, I want to encourage you to begin documenting your thinking right on your Pinterest boards.

Simply Genius TAsk

Your first task is to create a board for all of your ideas by topic (see below) and begin to pin your ideas onto a board for each of the topics we are mentioning today.

Notice how I used the word Teaching: as the beginning of my labels. Everything on that board relates to the main topic in some way. I used to have only a teaching board and trying to find what I needed was taking too much time! Labeling the boards in this way helped me find what I needed quickly, especially if you have already have many boards like I do! 🙂

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Head on over to Pinterest and look for daurian_hogan (Simply Genius) and daurianhogan to see what seed ideas I have for you! If you do not already have a Pinterest account, click here.

Classroom Layout & Theme

Nothing beats getting into your classroom and seeing your new space and the size of your furniture in real life. But until then, let’s begin by considering the physical layout of the classroom you would want to have.

Every classroom will be different in size and layout and comes with different furniture. Most classrooms have the following items: teacher desk, 1-2 bookshelves, 24 desks, 1-3 desktop computers, and a large area rug. How will you organize it all?

Consider this

 

Teaching Style

Grouping Preferences

Available Furniture

Budget

Student Age & Readiness

Future Post Tease: I will be sharing more about how & why I organize my classroom in the way that I do. I hope to see you there! (Coming in Summer 2017)

Another idea that is quite fun to consider is your classroom theme! Themes are uniquely us and can be based on any number of things. The sky is the limit, be creative and create an environment that you and your learners will want to come to everyday.

As a new teacher, your budget will probably be tight (mine was…lol), so start thinking about how you can make your classroom a dream come true without breaking the bank! By searching for classroom design ideas on Pinterest, you can begin to catalog the ideas that stand out to you and start collecting and searching for those items now and through the Summer months.

Practical Tip

  • Start SMALL. Remember that the teacher next door and the teachers on Pinterest have had a lot of time (even years!!) to prepare and collect the perfect materials. Be realistic with the time and resources you have and know that every year you teach, you will begin to collect and add to your theme- assuming you are not like me and change your mind frequently! 🙂
  • Start looking for bargains at your favorite stores, yard sales, Goodwill, and thrift stores. Re-purposing some of the decorative items you find can save money!
  • Use fabric to cover walls instead of using butcher paper. I used multiple sets of twin and full size sheets to cover walls and bulletin boards in my room. They are washable and fade-resistant.
  • Choosing a color theme can leave room for creativity and allow you to play with accent colors. My color theme for the past two years has been a black background with bright chevron borders. I use the colors from the borders in the materials throughout the classroom. Since my color theme will probably be the same again next year, this part of getting ready is already done! Yes!
  • Kristen B. over at Ladybug Teacher Files uses color in everything she does! I am always inspired when I view her blog! I know you will be as well!

Lesson Planning Templates

Lesson plans are a funny thing. We love to hate them. We have to have them. They range from the most detailed to very general. It truly is up to you how you want to organize your plans.

I currently use a free, on-line lesson planning tool at Common Curriculum (I genuinely use this site and do not receive any compensation from your use of the link).  Common Curriculum allows you to create your own templates based on your needs and teaching position. This is what a typical week looks like in the week long view.

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You can print your plans, download them for future reference, and collaborate with colleagues. I cannot say enough about this program!

I have created templates within Microsoft Word as well. It all comes down to what your administration wants to see, what you want to include, and your style and preference.

 

I will share more about lesson planning in a future post. For now decide how you want to record all of those amazing plans! There is no right or wrong way to do them unless you aren’t doing them at all!

Ask teachers on your team and in your college classes for ideas and samples, search     online for examples, and begin to either create your own version tailored specifically to you or find a program that you love.

“Sub Tub” Creation 

We all love the work we do each day for kids, but the reality is that life likes to throw us that infamous curve ball when we least expect it. Whether it is a health-related sickness or family emergency, having plans and activities ready for your sub makes being out of the classroom a little easier. Click the link above to learn about how I did it in ONE day!

Pinterest has many ideas available for you to begin your search! Check the Simply Genius boards for more inspiration! Practical Tip

  • Work with a teammate to create your Sub Tub! When a group of teachers come together to pool their resources, the entire process is streamlined and can be completed in a relatively short amount of time!
  • Any procedures and routines that are established in your classroom SHOULD absolutely be inside the substitute plans. I have never been a substitute, but I am a mom to three children. Whenever I leave vague directions for the baby-sitter, I always end up disappointed and a BIG mess is typically left to be cleaned up later. The same thinking is true with teaching- leaving specific and detailed instructions about how your classroom runs allows the guest teacher to create the same environment for your students as you would. Upon your return, your kids are more calm and they have been able to complete the work you have left for them.

All three of these prepping activities will potentially require you to make many decisions and will take some time to get just right. The good news is that we have plenty of time between now  and the first day of school to complete all of this thinking in advance of summer and the back to school season!

I am proud of you for beginning your journey with me as we prepare for a successful year of teaching! Feel free to leave positive comments and resources below!

Happy Prepping & Pinning!

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Shift the Focus: From Cute to Kids

I came across a few posts today written by Matt Gomez , Stacey Schubitz and Angela Watson that got me thinking about the emphasis teachers (including me) tend to place on preparing “cute” and “perfect” classrooms each year.

I just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic with you guys. As a veteran teacher, looking back, I have made the mistakes of spending way too much money at School Box and other retailers buying borders, cut-out letters, name plates, etc. I remember equating success with having my entire classroom set-up, with parent information folders, business cards, and small goodie bags on every desk. My class list was outside on beautiful bordered paper and framed in black. Yep, I did that. It is bittersweet when I think about all that I had done for my 28 students- part of me misses that and the other is completely over it and realizes the insanity of it all.

I would never discourage new teachers from preparing their classrooms in this way because it makes coming back to school special for the families in our schools. Two of my kids who are still in elementary always talk about the things their teachers did to prepare for them. It has a place.

However, here at Simply Genius, I believe that everything we do should be intentional and have a purpose. Expressing one’s unique personality in the classroom is to be celebrated and encouraged. I would even extend this to creating products for your classroom. Just like we eat with our eyes, kids like to have materials that look nice. They aren’t as particular about it as teachers can be, but it is a nice touch. I also believe that your family should get just as much of your time and energy as your classroom and your students. 

Everything we do in the classroom should be directed at helping our students become self-directed, independent learners and thinkers. So I use that question as my compass when I am making decisions about the classroom. Through this lens, I can ensure that my classroom is student-centered. From the procedures and routines I establish to the position of the furniture, every decision comes back to the learners in the environment. If something does not align to this belief, I modify it, ask for help, or throw it out.

My advice to you as a new teacher would be to start the year with a minimalist approach like Stacey suggests in her post. I would encourage you to develop lasting and meaningful relationships like Matt because they last longer than cute stuff of the moment. Finally, Angela Watson reminds us to not let the idea of perfection from your colleagues or Pinterest make you feel your students’ work isn’t worthy of being shared.  So share it, celebrate it, in the here and now.

Every year you will improve upon your ideas and presentation. Allow for that growth. In the meantime, remember that you are a learner along with your kids. You are their role model of how to handle perfectionism, failure, resilience, and grit. Sometimes the most impactful lessons we teach don’t come from a “cute” craftivity or “cute” classroom, they come from real and imperfect people and experiences.

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