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Summer is an ideal time for teacher reflections. After catching up on all the things you don't have time to do during the school year (like sleep), summer is a great time to reflect on how the past school year went and what you can do to make next year easier and better.
In order to get the most bang for your buck out of your reflections, think about times during the school year that you were completely stressed out, overwhelmed, or felt like you had to resort to yelling. Is there anything you can change now to make next school year less stressful?
Below are 5 procedures/skills/behaviors for you to reflect from last year. For each of the 5 things you reflect on, there are suggestions to help you create a plan to change it up for next year. Making small changes now can make next year drastically easier! If the suggestions or articles I have provided here don't address your specific problem, then a quick Google search or a search on Pinterest can provide you with a lot of helpful information!
I originally posted this as a 5 Days to a Better School Year Challenge, where teachers reflected on and made a plan for one thing every day. If you would like to do this as a 5 Day Challenge, you can find the First Day Challenge Here!
1. Student Behavior
What student behavior regularly stressed you out? Think about things that a large portion of your class seemed to struggle with consistently - not individual students.
What made you want to scream? What student behavior seemed to come up on an almost daily basis? For example – blurting out, making a mess, talking too much, being disrespectful, having to constantly sharpen pencils, getting out of seats without permission, etc.
After identifying the #1 most frustrating student behavior, spend a little time researching ways to prevent – or at least minimize – this problem for next year.
I’ve listed some links to articles that could help you address common annoying student behaviors. Some of these articles are from Teaching Made Practical, but most of them are from teachers that have found different ways to solve these problems.
Now, come up with a plan - written is best. Is there anything you can do now to prepare? Do you need any materials? Do you need to rearrange your classroom? Do you need to set up any new routines or procedures?
#2 Your Least Favorite Time of Day
What time of day regularly stressed you out? When were you often frustrated, stressed out, or upset with students - or yourself?
For example: as students entered the classroom, when you took group bathroom breaks, after recess, during transitions, during literacy centers, during dismissal, etc.
After figuring out your #1 most stressful time of day, spend a little time researching how other teachers have set up routines and procedures for this particular time of day.
I’ve listed some links to articles that could help you address common annoying behaviors.
Articles from Teaching Made Practical
Articles from other teachers:
- 26 Practical Morning Work Ideas and Routines
- Center Time
- After Recess
- 20 Line Up Teaching Strategies
Now, come up with a plan. What new procedures will you put in place? How will you teach the new procedures? How will you organize your classroom differently?
#3 A Teacher Responsibility
What teaching responsibility bugged you all year long because you knew you could do and should be doing a better job? What regularly made you feel disappointed in yourself?
Don't think about a classroom routine or a student behavior, but one of your teacher responsibilities that you never seemed to have time for.
For example: grading papers, talking to parents, paperwork, integrating technology, developing relationships with students or families, differentiating, building a positive classroom community, using higher level thinking questions, etc.
After deciding on a teaching responsibility that weighed you down this past year, spend a little time researching how other teachers have managed their time and improved this aspect of teaching.
Think about what kept you from doing a better job this past year and come up with solutions to that problem.
I’ve listed some links to articles that could help you think about routines you could set in place to help solve this problem from teachers that have found different ways to solve these problems.
- Building a Positive Classroom Community
- Building Relationships with Students
- Parent Communication
- Yelling at Students
- Integrating Technology
Now, come up with a plan! Simple and sustainable is best. How will you manage your time better this upcoming year? What can you do now so that you save time later? Do you need to make any changes to your classroom organization set up?
#4 Delegating Tasks
What routine task that you do regularly could be passed off to a student or parent? Consider easy, routine tasks that take up class time, your planning time, or time with your family at home.
For example, cleaning up the classroom, passing out papers, feeding class pets, cutting out centers/games, changing bulletin boards, organizing your classroom library, passing out missed work to students who were absent, organizing manipulatives, sharpening pencils, etc.
Now, spend a little time researching how other teachers have used classroom jobs and parent volunteers in the classroom to help save time.
On a side note, I put off using classroom jobs in my classroom for YEARS because it seemed like more trouble than it was worth. After I finally found a system that worked for me, it made my life so much easier! If you haven't used classroom jobs in the past because it seemed like more trouble than it was worth, really spend some time thinking about how you could make it work for you.
I’ve listed some links to articles that could help you address common classroom jobs and parent volunteers. Some of these articles are from Teaching Made Practical, but most of them are from teachers that have found different ways to address these issues.
- Making Classroom Jobs Work for You (How I made Classroom Jobs Work)
- 30 Classroom Job Ideas
- Classroom Job Tips from a Variety of Teachers
- Tips for Getting and Using Parent Volunteers
- 45 Tasks for Parent Volunteers in the Classroom
- Parent Volunteers in the Classroom
Finally, come up with a plan to have either students or parents (or both) help out with at least one teaching task this year. How will you integrate or update your classroom job routines? How will you utilize parent volunteers? What can you do now to prepare?
#5 A Confusing Skill
What academic skill did your students really struggle with last year? Was there a skill that seemed difficult to almost everybody? Was there a particular skill that a lot of your students bombed during testing?
For example – main idea, summarizing, rounding, making inferences, fractions, word problems etc.
After choosing a skill, think about why your students really seemed to struggle with this particular skill. What sorts of mistakes did they make? What prior knowledge were they missing?
Now, spend a little time researching how other teachers have taught this skill.
Find some resources and activity ideas that you could use this upcoming school year.
Below, I’ve listed some links to free resource and activity ideas for teaching some difficult skills to upper elementary students.
You can also take a look at the Teaching Made Practical Members Area. Although the majority of the resources are for teachers who have paid to join the membership, I have made many resources free for any teacher to use – just look for the red *Free* next to the name of the resource. You can find some free resources for teaching main idea, character traits, text features, fractions, comparing and contrasting, point of view, and more.
My most popular resources provide scaffolding to help students understand difficult concepts. You can check out my most popular resources here.
For other topics, do a quick Google Search or a search on Pinterest to see how other teachers have addressed the skill that your students have struggled with. Chances are, it is difficult for a lot of students!
Addressing these 5 things that bothered you last year can make next year substantially better!
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