Every year, around the middle of June, I post a blog article advising teachers to hold off on celebrating summer and to start preparing for the next school year. My premise is: I know, it is the end of the year and we all want nothing more but months of blissfully not thinking about work. But, I argue, you should really consider roughing out some ideas for next year while the year currently winding down is still fresh in your mind.
This June I decided to do something different. And by different, I mean exactly the same.
But this year is different. Preparing for next year now is more important than ever. We need to take away what we learned during this unprecedented year and get those ideas and new practices ready to roll out for next year. We can’t afford to return to school in August and slip back into the same-old, same-old.
We must lead this change. We can’t let those “learning loss”ers take charge of this process.
And our first step begins now.
Go back. Think about the 2020/2021 year. Yes, it sucked. It was literally the worst.
This year education leaped forward about 15 years into the future. Teachers around the world stepped up in a huge way and Apollo-13ed their instructional practices. We collaborated with our peers. We watched YouTube tutorials. We followed discussion threads on Twitter. We read articles. Most importantly, we tried new ideas and we carefully and deliberately chose those tools that best met our needs and our objectives.
And we kicked ass.
Let’s bring that spirit into next year and beyond. Let’s begin with some reflection questions:
- What did you learn about teaching while online this year?
- How important was building connections with students?
- How did you encourage students to take more control of their learning?
- Did you change your peer collaboration habits?
- How were your priorities reprioritized?
- What can you transfer to the classroom next year?
- Which of your existing strategies can be ditched?
- How did your assessments change?
- Did you change the role of parents in your instruction?
- What new resources did you rely on?
Once you have some thoughts on paper, start thinking about how to implement them in an in-person environment. Will you need help? Will your classroom space need to be redesigned?
Try reaching out to like-minded colleagues. See if you can get some momentum rolling around your organization.
Perhaps you simply sit down and just envision your in-person class in the fall. How will it look? How will you greet students? How will you build a class community? Really map out all your processes. Some things we do out of habit, others we use because they’ve worked effectively in the past. But, we can’t allow ourselves to get caught in that trap. We need to change our mindset and be intentional about reflecting and, if necessary, redesigning everything we used to do without thinking. We need to think. And we need to think while the ideas and that sense of flexibility and possibility are still fresh in our minds.
By August it will be too late. That teacher’s internal clock will start counting down to the start of school. We’ll fret about the lack of time and, out of habit, we will fall back on routine.
Don’t wait to fall back on the tried and true. Reflect now and start planning for the tried and new.
Have a great summer, when you’re ready for it. You deserve it.