What You Should Do This Year to Plan for Next Year

It’s so close we can sense it: the end of the school year, summer vacation, and a chance to become human again (or is that only me on that last one?). 

It’s tempting to leave off planning for next year until you return in August, when you actually feel ready to tackle a whole new school year.

But if you do that, you’re missing out on a perspective that you really need in order to plan the next year successfully. 

You need your tired teacher perspective.

I can’t be the only one who, newly energized and inspired, has set up all these new ideas for the school year, only to leave them behind in October when fatigue sets in. Or, believing that “this year the kids will be better” or smarter, or more responsible, I opt not to change certain things in hopes that I will achieve better results. Or be less tired. Or whatever.

We all are ten times more delusional in August about the school year than we are in May. When May comes at the end of the school year, we’d like nothing better than to go back in time and kick our August teacher selves in the shins. 

So you need to make one last big effort, for the sake of your future May teacher self, and start planning next school year now. Before the summer wipes your brain as effectively as it wipes our kids’ brains. 

Go through your curriculum and make notes of everything that worked well and those that need to change.

In theory, you could do this throughout the year, keeping a diary as you go of how each lesson went. Even if you didn’t, you probably remember which questions were too hard for your students, or which concepts needed more time, or more scaffolding. You can probably still recall the irritating amount of time it took to explain the procedure of a lab or activity because the instructions were written out poorly. 

You also probably remember all of the activities where your students and the activity and the concepts just clicked, and no one wanted to leave class when the bell rang. Or the times where your students had the best and most in depth questions, the discussions that sparked their curiosity and the models that made them all go “oooooohhhhh!”

List all of these out, by date, activity, or unit. Put it in a binder and leave it on your desk with a sticky note that says “Don’t do anything before reading this first!!!” or, if you prefer digital methods, type it up in a Google Doc and put it in a really obvious and hard to miss place (pro tip: if you label it 01 and then whatever other name you want to give it, it will pop up first in your documents list). 

And then make sure you read that document first before you do anything else after you return in August. This is your note to your future self, a chance to right any wrongs from the previous year. If you think your May teacher self was incredibly pessimistic, imagine how angry at yourself you will be if you don’t follow your own advice, and wind up back in the same predicaments as the previous year. 

(For a document you can use throughout the year check out this product on my TPT store here)

Purge your classroom of trash and unwanted materials.

“Oh, but August teacher self might want this next year!” You might say. 

If your May teacher self doesn’t want it, chuck it. We’ve already discussed how delusional your August teacher self is. Of course you’ll want it in August “just in case,” and then you’ll find yourself back in May with the same cluttered junk taking up valuable space in your cabinets. Rinse and repeat.

Give yourself the gift of space this Summer. Remember, this is for next year’s May teacher self. 

And for the love of all things school, Batman, don’t hand your unwanted stuff to some poor first year teacher. They don’t know how to say no, and you’re spreading the pack rat disease to another party.

If you want more tips on how to clean out and redesign your classroom, read my post here

Get your students’ perspectives on your course.

I know this idea can get teachers’ eyes rolling faster than a car on a tollway, but tired students perspectives can be just as useful as your tired teacher perspective if you ask the right questions.

Ask your students:

  • What were your favorite topics that we covered this year? Least favorite?
  • What do you wish we had covered this year? What do you wish we’d gone over in more detail?
  • What topics did you feel like we spent too much time on? What topics were easy for you to understand?
  • What advice would you give to next year’s students?

These questions can guide you as you tweak your curriculum for next year. Did your students need more explanation on rotational motion? Maybe you should build another day to cover that. Did you spend a whole week on ramp problems when your kids understood them after two days?

The advice for next year’s students not only give you a clue to how your students view your class generally (do they feel like they need to be really organized, go to tutoring more, etc.). It also gives you good bulletin board material when you return, as forewarning to your new batch of students.

I generally make these questionnaires anonymous, just so that my quieter students feel safer giving a real opinion. (You can download mine from my TPT store here)

Find useful Summer professional development

Some districts in my area require teachers to do a set number of professional development hours during the summer months. Generally, we can choose how we get those hours. I opt to find a conference or workshop relevant to the subjects that I teach rather than use the district provided professional development which is less relevant to me.

The reason you need to line this up now is that many of these opportunities have application deadlines and fee deadlines that you need to observe. If you’re looking for your district to pay for your professional development, you’ll need to work with whoever is in charge of funds.

If you’re part of a professional organization (I’m part of NSTA), they may include a list of these opportunities in their publications. You can also check out government sites, like NASA or NOAA (I’m a Science teacher, remember?) for professional development that they might offer. 

What pre-summer preparations have you done for the next school year? Let me know in the comments below! 

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