Maybe I subconsciously realized the today was the halfway mark for the summer 2015 break. Five weeks have passed; five weeks remain. I know it’s the downward slope because my older son returns from Europe in four days (and this helicopter mom is excited!), but the unexpected happen today. My younger son wanted to know how to find a copy of his freshman college fall schedule so that he could put his classes into his calendar app. And I didn’t even have to prod! (Well, I have prodded many other days.) he may have been inspired because I was entering my teaching calendar, my grad school calendar, his college calendar, and his brother’s college calendar into both my Google calendar (love that it syncs with the calendar app) and my 15-16 planner. Now that I’m looking towards the school year, what else can I or you do to ease the return?
Revisit last year
Remember those notes you made in last year’s planner about what worked? What text to try instead? What writing prompt absolutely flopped? Now may be the time to look back over the first few weeks of school. I have the English 3 curriculum maps with me in preparation for an exciting opportunity next weekend; I was reading through first semester’s and discovered that we had included “A Rose for Emily” in the individualism unit! Really?!?! How did I not remember that? I love teaching “Emily”! I really enjoy listening to the students entering class the next day as they “ew” over her lying next to a dead body. Just that realization on my part–that we had not dropped “Emily”– has given me a reason to look forward to teaching second quarter. And I know that if I feel reinvigorated, it will show in my teaching. I also know that no matter how much I swore last school year that I would NEVER forget the change I wanted to make, I have buried it in my long-term memory or possibly even dumped it into my forgotten abyss (yes, I saw “Inside Out” with a group of teachers).
Try something new
I am fortunate that I spend every summer coaching a National Writing Project site–Eastern Illinois Writing Project. I don’t have to scroll through numerous Googke searches looking for a new idea; the twelve or so teachers involved each share a demonstration, plus we quickly bond and share more than any of us ever thought we would learn in a four-week course. For me, this year I shared my Literary 3×3 (that I wrote about back in April), and I learned about Six Word Memoirs. Okay, I already knew about them. I bought the book years ago (I think at Walmart), and I follow their Twitter. I’ve even posted a few of my own. But I never thought about using it in my teaching. Not just an icebreaker; not just for a personal narrative. I could use teach this to students to use for characters and character development; its also a great ideas for creating chapter titles. A new tool in my teaching arsenal.
Do you have to scroll through endless Google searches? You could if you wanted to, but you could try a few of these suggestions. Web English Teacher (www.webenglishteacher.com) is always updating the links on their website. You could follow a Twitter chat. I am devoted to #aplitchat even thought I don’t teach AP English; they have become a very supportive community even though I’ve never meant them in person. I have so many new ideas from their weekly chats. If you need a different chat, look at Cybrary Man’s list of educational hashtags;mo had no Ida that there were hundreds of them. And then a shameless plug–I have a PowerPoint on my presentations page titled “Resources for Primary Sources and Informational Texts, which I update when I find new resources. The presentation us intended to promote literacy but across the curriculum; there are resources for most subjects, including electives.
I’m not very good at this. I worry, and I plan, and I change. And sometimes it’s an unhealthy cycle. I have not read this summer like I usually do. I haven’t even read thirty minutes before going to sleep like I tried to do every night during the school year. And I have not gotten back into a running routine. It happens. But it’s the halfway mark–I will read and run and sleep. I have “Go Set a Watchman” ordered, plus a lot of books in my literal to-be-read piles (yes, plural). I will be a better teacher when I am relaxed.
I know some of you are starting school now (for my friends in Arizona–I still think July 13th is early for a balanced cakendar), but it’s not too late to look for something new and rejuvenating should never be saved for just summer. For those of us who still have a few weeks, I’d love to hear what you are planning to do that’s new. And for everyone, what are you reading? I’m always looking for recommendations!