When the final bell rings for summer vacation and the buses have all departed, it doesn’t take long before the staff parking lot empties. I get it; you are exhausted from planning, marking, and containing 30 some students who are itching for freedom.
I am here to convince you to put away your keys, have a seat at your desk, and get back to work (just for a little while). I know what you are thinking; this woman must be mad! Hear me out because by doing just a few things before you lock your classroom door, you will stop spending your summer thinking about work and when you come back, you will be prepped and ready for a stress-free back-to-school season.
2. Reevaluate Procedures and Routines
The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on what procedures and routines worked well during the year and which ones need to be adjusted or scrapped all together. For example, you might want to consider what procedures you have in place for behavior tracking and consequences, incomplete assignments, absenteeism, technology usage, early finishers, and student celebrations (and the list goes on). It takes time for a teacher to find the classroom management procedures that work best for them. Below are some of the set-up resources I prepare at the end of the school year so I am ready to go when the students arrive.
2. Declutter and Decorate
It is time to purge the paper. File any really important documents or student exemplars that you will use during the next school year, but everything else should go. Get your classroom as tidy as possible and then start setting up what you can for next year. I know some people have to tear down everything in their classrooms each year, so this may not work for everyone. Keep in mind that you don’t need to make your classroom Pinterest-perfect, but adding a nice bulletin board display, or a sign to welcome your students now will give you one last thing to do during back to school when your to do list is a mile long. One of my favorite displays for back-to-school is my “English Is Weird” poster set, but you could also use funny grammar posters, inspirational quotes, or even your class rules (check out the rules posters I use inspired by famous people).
3. Plan for the First Day (or Week)
Make a lesson plan and photocopy everything you need at least for the first day of school (or the first week if that isn’t too overwhelming). When the rest of the teachers in your building are frantically prepping the first week back you will have time to personalize your classroom and materials for your particular student list(s). Even a point form list of what you will cover the first week is a good start if you don’t feel up to making full lesson plans.
Here are a few activities I like to do on the first day (depending on the grade I’m teaching):
- Use a snowball writing icebreaker activity (my favorite!)
- Have students write a letter to their future self
- Have students fill in and share a back-to-school mad lib
I also have this social media inspired student profile on each desk when students arrive, so they have something to do as soon as they sit down. I attach each profile to a student folder, so I can find information about the students easily during the year. Photocopy a class set of these and you already have the first 10-15 minutes planned! If you’d like to try it out, you can download your copy here: Free Social Media Student Profile.
4. Map Out Your Year
Keep this one very simple. Break it down by month and write down what units or what content you will cover during that time. A general pacing guide will give you some direction and allow you to think ahead to make sure you were covering all of your outcomes. When you get back to school, you will have a framework to start prepping for your year.
5. Get Ready For Open House / Meet The Teacher
Most schools have an open house or meet the teacher night in the first few weeks of school. I don’t know about you, but the day before open house, I always seem to be frantically preparing for the parents arrival, and I go into full stress-mode. I would suggest getting an open house presentation or handout prepared at the end of the year. I have one that I used each year, and just tweaked depending on what procedures, routines, or content I was changing.
Okay, you have done enough! Check all of these things off your list (or if you can’t do them all, even a couple will make a difference), and then head home for a stress-free summer holiday where are you thinking of nothing but sunshine, family, and friends. I hope you enjoy your vacation, teachers! You deserve it.