Welcome to the new year fellow educators! Not only have we enjoyed some well deserved rest-time, but we are nearing the halfway mark of a school year! January is a time to celebrate all the success achieved in the beginning of the year. It is also a time to refine some practices we let slip in the fall. I approach the new year with three main agendas.
My first agenda item is to purge. This year, as I moved from 4th grade teacher to kindergarten teacher. I inherited a lot of items from the previous teacher and I wasn’t sure exactly what I might need throughout the year. So I tossed some things but kept most others. At this point of the year, I can feel at liberty to get rid of some other things. Generally I offer these up to other teachers before I actually throw them away. Those old 1970s looking manipulatives that I wasn’t too sure about? Haven’t used them yet and we have had plenty of other options for manipulatives. This might be the time of year for you to go through drawers and shelves and see what you actually use and what could be passed on to another teacher. It certainly helps those other teachers with their budget!
Second on my agenda is to revisit classroom expectations. One of the worst mistakes a teacher can make is to assume anything about their students. When students come back from a long break, it can be easy to assume that they are ready to jump back in. Believe me, I have made this assumption and suffered the consequences. When I plan for the first week back from break, I make sure to include ample time for modeling and reviewing norms such as choosing centers, having “fix-it” conversations, using classroom materials, raising hands, asking to go to the bathroom, etc. Worst case scenario? Your students show you they are professionals and you praise them for being so amazing. Don’t forget to include some time to wiggle and play. Students coming back from break are often tired and not used to following a schedule. Giving time for movement breaks and play will benefit everybody.
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My final agenda item in the new year is to assess. This comes in many forms. In my school, after a couple of weeks into the new year, we do a few mid-year assessments. This helps us see the progress students have made and start to address any serious needs before it gets too close to the end of the school year. Assessment can also come in the form of observation. Careful teacher observation can lead to a deeper understanding of relationships that have developed, misconceptions in content, and things that are working well. Take some time to sit back and watch, jot some notes, and make plans to fix things. A good example? All year we have asked students to follow classroom expectations. Today we asked our students what an expectation is and NOBODY KNEW! How did I miss this?? Sometimes when we get into a rhythm, it takes a little break and careful observation to figure out what has, or has not, been working in the classroom.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope the new year offers you a wealth of new opportunities to learn and become better at your craft.