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June 29, 2012

Mailbag: What Can I Do This Summer to Get Ready for Next Year?

Popsicles imageDear Maia,

Dear Maia graphicI’m wondering if you have any suggestions on how to best plan out your summer time? I’m trying to adjust my organization system now that I’m not teaching (no lessons to prep, copies to make, etc).  I would LOVE to see a post about how to best use the summer to stay productive and organized.  I want to take advantage of this time!

Mary Pat (Milwaukee)


Great question, Mary Pat. Thanks for writing! I’m sure many teachers out there are wondering the same thing, so I’m responding via blog post. I shot this idea out to my Together Teacher testing team—a fabulous group of teachers with whom I’ve worked for a long time. Based on their replies, I wanted to call this post “Popsicles and Planning!” since all the teachers I spoke with said they aim to have some fun and get ahead!

First and foremost, each of the Together Teachers mentioned that while their organization tools may look different in the summer, they are still keeping their Together Teacher habits. Adzua in Atlanta tells me, “I modified my Weekly Worksheet to reflect my summer jobs and goals to keep myself organized and stay in the Together Teacher habit of planning for a week,” and Jenny in Brooklyn says, “I’m traveling for three weeks over the summer so I want to stay organized when I’m preparing for the trip, when I’m on the trip, and when I get back from the trip.  I’ve swapped out some of my teacher task headings for more vacation oriented headings. For example, I changed Grade Level Leader Tasks to Travel Preparation Tasks.”

Here are their ideas for maximizing the summer:

  1. Read professionally. You know that list of books that people keep recommending to you during the school year? But you’re just nodding and trying to get through the week? Pick 2 – 3 of those books and get started! You’re getting sleep, your brain is fresh and you have time and space to thoughtfully reflect.
  2. Organize your files—both paper and electronic. Pick a few chunks of time when you can get into your school to recycle, sort, and scan your materials. Those PD binders you were handed? All of those handouts you downloaded, but never bothered to name the documents clearly? Those student papers you meant to search through for exemplars? Now’s the time to clean up and clean out. Check out Amy’s ideas for electronic organization here.
  3. Get ahead on long-term planning. Summer is a great time to make progress on some of the big brain work of teaching, particularly if you have new content coming your way. Kelly tells me, “I’m teaching a new course, so I’m going to do some big picture unit planning and hunt down various resources that I can incorporate. I’ll also work on some video and other multimedia materials that I want to use that will be time-consuming to make during the school year.”
  4. Attend great professional development. Summer is a time when PD can truly be internalized because you can be in the moment. You’re not worrying about completing your lesson plans or calling parents. The summer I spent at the Louisiana State University Writing Project was one of the best I ever had.
  5. Scour for sales. I used to spend portions of my summer stalking Wal-Mart, yard sales, and discount stores for things I wanted to add to my classroom but my school couldn’t pay for. Special baskets for table supplies, beanbags for reading, nice lamps for the writing table, extra paper towels, high quality Ziploc bags, and lots and lots of yummy granola bars.

And of course, take a well-deserved BREAK! At Together Teacher, we’ll be taking some time off this summer too. Next week will find me on the Jersey shore with my family and friends. But we are still here supporting you. Our blog posts will focus on helping you create tools and routines to hit the classroom running in the fall.

Stay tuned!

Together Teacher Discussion Question: What are YOU doing this summer to get ready for the next school year?

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