The new school year is like a reset button for teachers if they plan well enough year-round.
For Administrators

Exceptional Teachers Are Always Thinking About Next Year

By Brian Gatens April 14, 2016

A new school year is a reset button that lets new practices, philosophies and approaches to learning come alive in classrooms. Several of my friends in private industry envy our summer breaks and our opportunities to reinvent ourselves with the start of a new school year.

Of course it’s not that simple, but there are a lot of things we can do now (and all year for that matter) to help bring new ideas forward in the fall. For starters, try these simple steps:

Don’t let great ideas get away

In the middle of a busy classroom, you’ll suddenly have a great idea for next year. Perhaps it’s an improved practice or a new topic to explore. If you’re not careful, the hectic nature of your work and the next pressing issue will soon push that thought out of your mind.

Write that idea down immediately. If you expect to have difficulty keeping track of a paper list of thoughts, set up a free account with www.followupthen.com and email yourself a reminder. For example, if you email your thought to July@followupthen.com, they’ll email it back to you on July 1. It’s a simple, efficient way to keep those ideas alive.

Ask colleagues for feedback

Don’t underestimate the potential of your professional peers to help you grow as a teacher. Whether you realize it or not, you’ll take on their attitudes and actions, and you need to bounce ideas off of them.

Not every idea will survive the scrutiny of your colleagues, who will be key in either encouraging a good idea or helping you walk away from a bad one. If you’re fortunate, you may find that your school has a faculty study group to help nurture these ideas under an official lens. Regardless of the format, be sure to tell your fellow teachers what you’d like to do next year and ask what they think.

Do your research

If it has a name, it’s been done by someone else. When the seed of an idea gets planted in your head, turn to the Internet to do some research. Odds are that someone somewhere has tried either your idea or something like it.

Learn from their example and build upon it. When you find another example, reach out to the person who did it. One of the greatest benefits of our hyper-connected world is that we can connect with just about anyone anywhere. As a courtesy, keep them updated on your progress, and be sure to share it with others. Keep the positive work flowing forward.

Think big, act small

It’s easy to think of broad and hopeful ideas, but it’s hard to bring them completely to life. You’re better off thinking about incremental and steady growth — like a small change to how you present information in class or how you assess students.

Bit by bit, gradual improvements can transform traditional practices into outstanding and innovative work. Just don’t expect it to happen all at once or easily. All systems can improve over time, and that happens by paying attention to the here and now while keeping a vision for the way things can be. Grow that vision by adding to it over time.

Tie your growth to goals

It’s not enough to think about doing better things next year. You have to tie any classroom changes to your personal goals and your school’s broad objectives. Framing your personal improvement through the lens of what the school hopes to achieve helps you and your students.

Where you can, involve your colleagues in taking your ideas for improvement and moving toward a common place in your classroom practice.

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