Tuesday, September 6, 2011

10 Ways to Makes This the Best School Year Yet

The first week of school is always my favorite. I'm still motivated enough to iron clothes the night before, my wife is still making me courtesy bag lunches, and my students are still trying to impress me with a good first impression. Come June, my clothes will likely be wrinkled and lunch will consist of a banana and a can of Diet Pepsi, but that doesn't mean this year won't be a success. Here are my 10 suggestions for making this the best school year yet.

1. Start a Blog
I've mentioned in previous blog posts the advantages of keeping a blog and I think this is a great way to make this school year stand out from previous years. Not only does a blog provide valuable communication that narrows the gap between school and home, it also serves as an archive for all that you do.

2. Take on a New Responsibility
This year I am serving as my department chairperson. It's a big responsibility, but it has motivated me to look at my building from a different perspective and ask myself how I can best make a difference. It's easy to stagnate in the safety of your own classroom and taking on a new responsibility forces you to engage and act outside of your comfort zone.

3. Collaborate with a Colleague
Two heads are better than one. It's an old adage, but it's true. Find a colleague that you haven't worked with before and create a co-curricular project.

4. Become a Mentor
Being the new teacher in the building is no fun. Use your experience to help that person hone his/her skills as an educator. You'll probably make a new friend in the process... Maybe even someone that you can work on a project with at some point (see number 3).

5. Change and Old Unit or Create a New Unit
Everyone has safe, go-to units. Dare yourself to throw one out and try something new. Even if it's a miserable failure you'll still learn a lot from the experience and this will improve your teaching.

6. Join Twitter and Develop Your PLN
Some of my best ideas have been inspired by the folks that I follow on Twitter. Create an account and follow other educators (maybe these 57 to start). You'll be surprised by how valuable 140 characters can be.

7. Volunteer
Connect with your students at a different level by volunteering to chaperone a dance or field trip, or by becoming an adviser for a club. Seeing kids in these different contexts will help you to gain a greater perspective of your students' strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs.

8. Make Reading a Priority
Practice what you preach. Make it a point to find 15 minutes each day for recreational reading. Maybe choose adolescent fiction books that you can then recommend to your students, or find education-orientated "trade" magazines to inspire new ideas and teaching techniques.

9. Attend a Workshop or Conference
Take the initiative to find a workshop or conference that you actually want to attend rather than one that is required for you to attend. This is yet another way to foster new and innovative ideas.

10. Find Better Ways to Connect with Parents
Bottom line: if parents are on your side, you are going to have a better year. Make it a goal to call one parent each day with something good to say.

(When I was a kid my mom took my picture every year in front of our house on the first day of school. Now, my wife continues the tradition. Old habits die hard.)

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1 Responses:

Hunter Hall said...

As a future educator I was very interested in reading your post and finding ways to provide my classroom with a successful school year from day one. Thank you for your honesty by letting me feel like I am not the only one who tends to slack after the first few weeks of school in the clothing and lunch department! I think adding a blog is a great idea, I have never used one in any of my previous classes until now and I feel it is a great way to communicate. I am a firm believer in two heads are better than one. Sharing information and asking for help is definitely something that has helped me many times throughout my career as a student. Trying new things can be a scary task for me, taking your advice has helped me in more ways than one already. EDM310 required me to create a twitter account and I can honestly say that I am very glad I was required to join this social network and will definitely incorporate it into my future classroom. Thank you for sharing your first day of school picture, I think your wife is carrying out a great tradition!
Hunter Hall