A mentor of mine says mistakes are the best thing that can happen to you—as long as you learn from them. And as a teacher, you’re always going to make mistakes. Learning from them, however, is a different story. In fact, teaching can be so isolating and so consuming that you don’t always know when you’ve made a mistake, let alone the cause of it.
What’s more, even when teachers do know what went wrong and what they need to do differently, there’s a tendency to live with mistakes until the timing seems right for correcting them. As an instructional coach and new teacher induction facilitator, I often hear teachers say they “can’t wait till next year” so they can make various changes in their classrooms.
Well, guess what? Next year has begun. Sure you need—and deserve!—rest and relaxation this summer. But it’s also important—and your students deserve!—for you to engage in other R and R this summer: reflection and revision.
Start by prioritizing. For most newer teachers, this means classroom management. Run through the policies and procedures you had in place this year. What worked and why? What didn’t work and why? What problems arose because you had no policy or procedure? Be sure to address these and other questions as objectively as possible—my article, Classroom Turnaround Plan, includes a process for doing this.
As for specific solutions, read/revisit my prior “Classroom Management” posts—especially check out Disorganization-Proofing Your Classroom if you’re organizationally challenged. And if you’re looking for behavior management support, Attention-Deficit: The Other Kind features several strategies that have made a huge difference for me and teachers I’ve supported.
There are, of course, many other great classroom management resources, with The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong being among the most comprehensive. The Wongs also write a monthly column at teachers.net—lots of practical (and free!) ideas, and this month’s article includes summaries of (and links to) all previous articles.
As for you veteran teachers whose classrooms already run like clockwork, consider focusing this summer on content. Improving how you teach just one skill or concept can go a long way toward improving learning in your classroom overall. One summer, for example, I committed to researching and developing a system for teaching students a basic yet elusive math skill (adding and subtracting integers), and from that year forward was a much more effective Algebra teacher as a result.
Whatever aspect of teaching you target for improvement, the important thing is that you return in the fall a better teacher. In short, to not take time over the summer to reflect on last year and revise for next year is to resign yourself to repeating mistakes from year to year. And my advice from personal experience: do it now while this past year is still fresh. Plus, the sooner you get your reflecting and revising out of the way, the sooner you’ll be able to rest and relax.
Best wishes for a summer of R and R… and R and R!!