Every time someone asks me if I’m looking forward to getting back to school in August, I find myself getting overwhelmed about the actual coming of a new school year. As anybody in the field of education knows, those weeks before school starting can be full of tremendous emotion, excitement, work, and concern. Much of that may include being exciting about getting back to school and into a routine, maybe a little bit disappointed that the summer is over and you didn’t get a do all the things you’d hope you’d accomplish, maybe you still have things that you’re working on or places you like to go, and even things you’d like to read or family you’d like to see.
Teachers should spend time over the summer trying to rejuvenate, but really while doing that they are still working in the background on that great theme for the classroom (if you’re an elementary teacher that’s a whole new ball game and you know what I mean if you are), looking for that perfect lesson plan that hooks the students, and learning how to use the latest and greatest tech (according to the trendsetters whomever they may be this year). Following those trends, moving forward, and growing is part of the makeup of only a piece of who a teacher is. Each of these are valid places to be at the beginning of the school year and over the summer, but it’s my take that the majority of these cause a great deal of stress, and much gets lost with the pace of the beginning of a new year unless it’s embedded in your true self.
I started thinking about the amount of things that overwhelm me perhaps are the same things that I need to let go of in order to think of things that I should be doing to lead to student engagement, growth, and learning. None of this is to devalue the hard work teachers put in to create the learning environment that’s needed, or negate the research for needs of specifics in the classroom set up because that’s all necessary too, but I wonder if we refocus our view by asking ourselves the following 10 questions if it would illuminate our student learning environment and our well-being for the better overall?
- Do I have goals for myself this year as an educator? (You should, and you should have them written down; make yourself accountable to invest in yourself.)
- What’s the one thing I need to learn to help this next year improve? (Don’t make an extensive list that you know you can’t follow; be realistic)
- What pieces of my instruction last year were the best and how can I apply that into what I need to do this year? (What piece did you enjoy as much as your students, where did you learn by their side? THAT’S THE PIECE-use it as your model)
- Where do I know that I fell short last year and what steps can I take to change it? (Be honest, we’re all human. List it out and make it real)
- Who can I seek out to share with? (You cannot do this by yourself, never be an island. The working together produces so much more than alone.)
- Do I have a plan to “see” each of my students this year? ( Meet them where they are, find out their loves, fears, and what they expect from you; love them all!)
- Have I put myself out there? Be vulnerable. (No one’s perfect, be willing to be wrong and learn from it, then share that with your students and colleagues; you will grow from it; I promise.)
- Is there something I’m afraid of? What can I do to overcome that fear? (Refer to #7, it applies)
- Could we create teams at the end of each year to help or do those things that take the majority of our time at the beginning of our year or over the summer? (ie. get our classrooms ready, make the needed copies, create, etc?) All we need is the plan, the groups can pull off the execution of the plan. Learn to ask for help. (PTO, students, parents, and community interest groups)
- Do I love what I do? (If the answer is yes, shout out the why to everyone you know and share the joy. If the answer is no, then figure out the why and ask yourself if you can change it?)
I know it can be difficult to act on some of these, and to let go of the control in others, but it’s my belief, and for the wellbeing of education, that as we learn to let go, invest in ourselves, and be honest we can make changes in our districts that change the ultimate learning trajectory for children. When it comes down to the point of change, often there’s more talk than action. Break the mold, be daring, make the change.
Deana L. Simpson