Inherently, there is great value in planning ahead in every professional field.
For teachers, planning for your upcoming school year will pay off in spades once the academic year begins. This strategy, this advice, is a possible cliché; “everyone knows” to plan ahead. Here, we’re going to tackle not only planning ahead, but planning to win and experience victories within the first days of the academic year. On the heels of the pandemic year, you’re due for victories!
Of course, unplanned situations (i.e., the pandemic) have a way of showing up as early as the first day of school, but this type of plan for the year ahead can include procedures for unforeseen circumstances. In addition, just knowing that a plan is ready makes the unplanned easier to deal with.
Regardless of your educational experience -- whether you’re brand new to the field or you’re a 25-year veteran -- working ahead with a plan will pay off. What can strategies look like?
Research innovative methods
It is easy to say that you’ll “be innovative” with students once the school year begins. It is another matter entirely to put innovative methods into practice. The best strategy to achieve the goal of teaching with innovation is to do the research and complete said research at a pace that works for you. If the entire summer is available to you to complete research, you won’t have to rush your learning. Teachers are also students, and don’t necessarily have to be in school to learn. Learn from experts, learn from online courses, learn from more experienced teachers.
Plan to personalize lessons by communicating with colleagues
Students learn in differing styles. As a teacher, it is important to learn each style as best as possible. Elementary school teachers, while it’s impossible to learn each student’s style in entirety prior to the school year, get a jump on your lesson plans and personalized teaching methods by speaking with the teachers who teach the grade below yours. For middle and high school teachers, make sure to speak with your colleagues as much as possible. While students change over time, and no one on a faculty knows new students prior to the beginning of the school year, you’ll still have ideas that will help you plan for the majority of the students you’ll be teaching.
Devise specific strategies to promote classroom equity
According to Northeastern University, “’equity’ can have a lot of different definitions, depending on the context but, at its core, the concept involves giving everyone in a situation the specific tools they need to be successful.” So what can that definition look like in practice? A few examples include:
- Providing school supplies for those students whose parents cannot provide them or asking the parents of students who can provide school supplies to buy a few extra items to put “in reserve”.
- Tailoring lessons to rely less upon technology if students in lower income families do not have a home computer; or, if technology is essential to a lesson, privately encouraging those same students to come to school early or stay late to use the classroom computer for assignments.
- Quietly reaching out to students in lower income families, or students with other stressful family dynamics, to give them signs that you’re in their corner -- without publicly calling attention to their home situations.
Staying ahead of the calendar during the school year will grant you more time for one-on-one moments with students and the ability to get creative with your lessons. The school year is filled with “ups and downs” and snap decisions -- why not be prepared for what you can?