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Monday, July 11, 2011

7 Steps to Get a Big Picture Plan for Your School Year

"I will lay me down to bleed a while and then rise to fight again."
Warrior's Creed
Repos // Rest [Explored]Lay Me Down
It is hard to understand if you're not a teacher how the summer feels. The many emotions that a teacher goes through.  I just finished the third book in the The Hunger Games series which largely focuses on the emotional backlash of war. I hate to say that I've been through war, but sometimes that is how it feels.

Rest is vital to recovery. You can recover from the past school year by taking time to rest without a list, a watch, and guilt free permission to sleep late, take naps and do whatever you enjoy: read, fish, take walks. (See my 10 tips for getting the most out of your summer.)

Every teacher CAN recover their center by resting and rising to the task of getting ahead on the school year. 

Rise to Teach Again: 7 Things You Can Do Now!
You cannot wait until you "feel like it" to get ready for next school year, here are some things you can do now:

Teacher's Desk 
1 - Brainstorm New Ideas
Take a blank piece of paper and write down all the things you wish you covered that you didn't. 

Jot down ideas of things that you wish you had time to do with your students. Note anything that you did that was effective and worked well and perhaps want to expand upon.

No holds barred brainstorm. If you can't see it you can't do it. Do this with a friend if it helps.

2 - Strike What Didn't Work
Think about your disasters this year. What things just didn't work. What content didn't get across to students. Jot down the things that didn't work. This could be content or projects.

Look at the content that you HAVE to keep but that you need to improve upon by putting a star beside it. If something already works, don't change it. Tackle the things that are weaknesses. Be honest with yourself - no teacher is perfect.

3 - Map out your projects
Think about the projects you did and those you can do on another piece of paper. If you want to color code it, highlight each project in a highlighter and go back over your new ideas and highlight the ones that can be incorporated into each project. Go ahead and check the calendars of those projects you've joined for this year. Plan projects, do your research, put them on your calendar.

4 - Get out your calendar
I go into Microsoft Publisher and print out calendars (or use some of these templates) for the whole school year. Then, I map out the year (big picture) with projects and main topics.  

Map out your plan by month in pencil because you will need to erase as you work on things. 

This is my Mom's very important tactic and it works.

5 - Go back and integrate
Go back and take a good look at the things you can put together. Look at the first list of brainstorming, add something. Is there a content area where you are weak from your second list that you can pull in to improve things.

For example, when we have our cross curricular project with the term papers for juniors and seniors, I'm going to add a module where students evaluate and create a venn diagram on the best bibliography makers out there. I want them to see that there are some very useful tools that will help them with their work and improve their accuracy. (I can use Diigo, Google Docs, blogging, and PowerPoint/ Presentation skills in this little module.)  So, that will add a 1-2 day prior to the module where they are working on term papers.

6 - Plan the tools and parent permissions
Then, once you see what you want to do, take a look at the tools and parental permissions you'll need. This will take some time. For example, I'm looking at moving our school website to wordpress and having my students keep the news, etc. maintained. This will take some back end work on my side. I can go ahead and do this! 

7 - Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
If there's anything big (like Flat Classroom or Digiteen project) that you want to integrate - spend some time NOW talking to your curriculum director or principal.The first few crazy days of school are not the time. (Especially if you're a part of the movement of some schools to start students and teachers on the same day - which I personally think is a HUGE MISTAKE.)

But, Vicki, I have no control over my curriculum?
Some of you are in a situation where you have to team plan EVERYTHING. Get yourself together and get ready for your first session. Use google docs to plan and do these activities with others. Think about this now. You have more control than you think. Ask to be a pilot for a new technology. Be the leader you want to see in others. Age and seniority isn't needed to be a leader.

You could also make a list of the things your students are NOT getting: blogging, collaborative writing via wikis/ Google docs, educational networking. Then, make suggestions and offer to be a pilot.

The Most Important "A" in your Classroom
The most important A in your classroom is Attitude!

I like to write this Att-I-tude because truly "I" am at the center of my own attitude.

I cannot control what others do. I cannot control my administration. I cannot control new policies or programs. I cannot even control my own schedule or what students come in my door on the first day of school, but I can completely control my own attitude. My attitude is just that - MY attitude. 

I get full credit and take full responsibility for my own attitude. It is mine. I will be known by others for the attitude that I convey about my work and my students. (I shared a lot about this in my keynote last Monday 12 Habits of Top 21st Century Teachers.)

By planning ahead, I can help position my attitude for success. As I work on this series sharing tips for getting organized and prepared for the school year ahead, I've got a poll running on my Facebook page that lets you vote on already suggested answers or to add your own. Please join in!
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