Where do you start on summer planning? Just pick something!
The following is an actual text from my friend and colleague on the first day of summer this last week:
“I always find the first day of break slightly depressing. Only because I always have a ridiculous list of things I want to accomplish over the next 10 weeks, but I don’t have a good place to start. And, it feels like any bit of relaxing is wasted time. It’s probably because I’ve spent the past 9 months like a chicken with my head cutoff and now that structure ends.”
There is truth in my friend’s text, we spend 9 1/2 months highly structured, and in out case eating lunch at 10:17 AM. When summer rolls around the structure disappears and we have lots of goals and no structure.
Where to start?
What project needs to be done first?
How do I get started flipping?
Should I make videos?
What organizational tool do I need?
Idea #3: JUST PICK SOMETHING!
Q: How do you eat a whale? A: One bite at a time. It doesn’t much matter where you start on any big project or adjustment to your classroom. The reality is you will likely not use the first thing you create or first change you make as learning is a process and you won’t know where the road leads or the skills you need until well after you have set off. This is why making a second one of anything takes far less time and frustration than doing it the first time, you figure out a more efficient methods using newly acquired skills. It is a bit ironic that as teachers we forget so often what it means to be a learner.
Let me give you a few suggestions about where you might start:
Pick something you love to do in your classroom and make it just a little better. Every teacher has something they love to do, something that always goes well, or something they are known for. The best part about starting with your best thing is that you already know a lot about it and know what works. With that being said, there is always something that can be improved about even our best thing. Another advantage to adjusting something we are good at is there is always the opportunity to fall back on something we know works and so the stakes are not that high. To be honest, this is not where I would start, but if this sounds like you then go for it.
Pick something you hate to do or something that just doesn’t work. Every teacher has something they hate doing, or something that just doesn’t fit their interests or talents. The advantage to starting with something that doesn’t work in your classroom and for your students is that no matter what you come up with, it will be better than what you started with. Here again, don’t expect epiphany or inspiration to just alight on your mind, fixing what you have identified as broken is going to take time and will likely require you to learn a new skill or step outside your comfort zone. In all reality, this is probably why the thing wasn’t working in your classroom to begin with. The advantage to attacking this type of problem in the summer is that you have time to create, reflect, and revise before “taking it live” in the classroom. When I first attempted the flipped classroom, I simply moved the same stuff I was doing in my classroom to video. The same homework examples and problems just got reorganized and rearranged. When I look back I cringe, but it was a necessary step in the learning process. Something that helped me was testing my new stuff on my colleagues. Have my face in the video or not? Use Google Classroom or a different LMS? Give students a full copy of the notes or notes they had to fill in? People that work with me and know me also had pretty good instincts as to what would work in my classroom. It was a bit scary opening my classroom to critique and criticism, but let’s be honest every teacher in your building has already heard everything about your class from the students, you might as well have them help you improve it.
Add something completely different. Pick something that you have never attempted or always wish you had time for and create something new. Starting from a blank slate can be both the most daunting and the most freeing of activities. Great candidates for this type of project are enrichment pieces, or mini lessons that are usually somewhat stand alone in nature. The advantage here is if it works you look like a genius, and if it doesn’t the damage is contained. Either way by creating something new you gain new skills, and most importantly, you put your mind in a place of openness that can translate over into other areas of your classroom. Like many other things in life, once you start something you get in the creative groove and one success leads to another and you are on your way.
The most important thing is… just pick SOMETHING!
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