The other day, I was speaking to a friend of mine about preparing for the new school year. I’m usually very organized.
- My long-range plans are done.
- I’ve prepared activities for the first week of school.
- I’ve laminated and cut-out materials for the classroom.
- My daybook plan for the first week is complete.
- I’ve written my September Newsletter, and it’s ready to be photocopied.
- All of the materials that I have at home that need to go back to school are prepared and ready to load into my car.
This year, I haven’t done any of these things. When I was talking to my friend I said, “I’m not prepared to go back!” But I’ve been thinking about that conversation for the past couple of days, and maybe that’s not true.
I haven’t done the things on this list yet because …
- I’m moving schools. I’ve only seen the new classroom once, and I can’t remember everything that’s in it — especially everything that’s in the teacher cabinet. I have to have another look before I decide what to bring in.
- I don’t have my schedule yet. I’m not sure what the day looks like, what subjects I’m teaching, and what subjects are being taught through my preps. This information will impact on my daily plan. When it comes, I can then start finalizing the look of the day.
- I’ve only met once with the new Grade 1 team, and we’re planning on meeting next week to finalize our plans. Daily activities, newsletters, and daybook plans have to come after these planning sessions.
- I haven’t met the students yet — this could be the most important reason of all! For the past nine years, I taught at the same school. I taught many students multiple times — some as many as four years — and I knew almost everyone in the building. Planning was easier because I could truly plan with the students in mind. With my school change, I’ve had to rely on reading OSR’s, speaking to previous teachers, and reading general overviews on each child. Over the years, I’ve learned that students are rarely exactly as they appear on paper, and meeting students, making connections with them, learning about their strengths and needs, and then moving forward is important.
This doesn’t mean that I plan on going into the new year blindly. In fact, since I took this photograph of the new classroom during the first week in July, my mind continues to be on school.
My preparation though is different than it’s been in the past.
- I’ve been talking online — through Twitter — with mainly Reggio-inspired Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers. My Grade 1’s will be coming out of a Full-Day Kindergarten Program that embraces many of the Reggio philosophies. I want to look at how to bring this programming up to Grade 1. I’ve been thinking and chatting about classroom design, program design, scheduling, inquiry approaches, and balancing curriculum and student interests.
- I’ve been reading educational books on inquiry and technology that I think would be beneficial for classroom use. A Place For Wonder, Teaching the iStudent, and Why Are All School Buses Always Yellow? have given me lots to consider. Now I have new ideas for provocations, questioning activities, and technology resources that could be beneficial in Grade 1.
- I’ve been re-reading all of the curriculum documents. I’ve been thinking about how the expectations align. I’ve been considering what might interest Grade 1 students, and how their interests can parallel with the overall expectations. I’ve been looking at the student needs — at least the ones outlined on paper — and considering various entry points (to hopefully lead to increased success).
- I’ve been learning more about the Pals and K-Pals Program: ones that the Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers have used in the past. I’ve been thinking about ways that I could use this program while still maintaining a large block of time for inquiry/comprehensive literacy. I struggle with scripted programs, but talking to my teaching partners, I hear that there are lots of benefits to this program for students. I’m hoping that I can have an inquiry/comprehensive literacy block, a math block, and a period for Pals and K-Pals. Science, Social Studies, and The Arts can be integrated with literacy and math. Depending on the schedule, this could work (fingers crossed).
- I’ve been talking in-person with various educators. Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to meet with the new Grade 1 team, and we discussed ways to link inquiry and oral language and start moving into some reading and writing possibilities. I also spoke to a Grade 2 teacher in Peel, Jonathan So, about The Daily 5. We talked about how to get started, the need for sustained reading and writing time, but also how to possibly use the format with some Wonder Centres: still allowing for the elements of choice, but also linking Language with Science and Social Studies.
Maybe I’m a little more prepared than I thought. Maybe preparation doesn’t need to mean long written plans and yearly schedules. Maybe we can prepare the most by reading, thinking, questioning, talking, and listening (in a continual loop). I guess that I’ll see how prepared I feel when I walk into the classroom to begin setting up on Monday morning. How do you prepare for a new school year? How do you balance scheduling restrictions, school desires, team thoughts, and student needs as you plan ahead? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!