While students throughout the U.S. are preparing for 2 to 3 months of summer vacation, most of the teachers are doubling down on work.
They may not have to stand in a classroom every day teaching, but a teacher’s work doesn’t end when the students go home. This coming fall is especially challenging as many teachers will be returning to full-time, in-person teaching for the first time in over a year. It can easily feel like a return to that first year of teaching with much of the same thoughts and questions running through our minds:
- How should I set up my classroom?
- What centers activities are going to work best?
- How can I organize my small groups?
- What teaching tools do I need?
- Will this new idea I have work? What if it doesn’t?
These are questions we ask ourselves every year, but this year we don’t have as much experience or data to help answer them. Every year, teachers try new tactics and methods to make their learning environments more efficient and effective. Throughout the year, they assess how things are working and make notes on what needs to change. When the school year ends, they get to work making changes and preparing to implement new ideas, spending most of their summer “break” getting everything together.
So, how does a teacher who hasn’t been in a classroom for a year or more – who’s been doing online/distance teaching – prepare for the new year?
The first step is recognizing that everyone is going to have a difficult time at the start. Students and teachers are having to transition back into a traditional learning environment and schedule after over a year of doing school at home. There are going to be some growing pains.
The next step, then, is to create a first week (or few days, depending on how your school goes back) that allows for those growing pains to happen and then move on. The idea is to have a fun but structured first week back that allows the students to get acclimated and allows you to see what they already know.
Some questions to consider as you prepare for a “back to normal” school year:
- How can I make this transition easier/less stressful for me?
- How can I make this transition easier/less traumatic for my students?
- What challenges do I expect to face with this transition?
- What do I hope for as we transition?
- What resources do I have to help with this transition?
- What resources do I need to help with this transition?
With these questions in mind, you can start planning that first week. Try to find ways to address those questions in the activities you plan. Here is a basic outline of things that you should try to accomplish that first week, which will allow you to address those questions:
- Establish/explain rules and practice them
- Develop classroom community
- Give students the time and freedom to ask questions and explore
- Begin to develop teamwork/social skills
- Behavior management systems
If you already have some plans and ideas for implementing these first week goals, that’s awesome! If you want a little guidance or are just looking for more ideas, stick around because I have articles that address each one of those points.
Ultimately, the goal is to just get “back to normal”; and that means that this year is not going to look the same as the years before the pandemic. Everyone is going to need time to adjust, so be flexible and allow room for growth and change – there’s going to be a lot of it this year.
Happy planning, teachers, and good luck! Oh, and try to take a little break this summer. Your mental health is so important and you won’t do anyone any good if you’re burnt out before the school year even starts. Bye now!
This article is my original work and is currently published on my blog Eagerly Engaged - a new blog that I've just recently launched.