Sunday, April 19, 2015

A New School Year: Questions to Consider

As you think about a new school year, what questions are important to consider.

I offer the following:

What environment will best support your teaching/learning goals?
What is the main focus of your classroom program, and what kinds of furniture will allow students to learn those objectives with strength? Is it best to have desks or tables? Do you need lots of storage shelves and containers? Is a tile floor better or will a rug be best? Once you've designed the optimal environment for your learning goals, the next step is to determine how you'll get what you need.

What resources will best support your students?
What's your main objective and what do you need to teach those topics well? If your main objective is composition, then it's advantageous for you to be in a one-to-one environment with one tech device for every student so they can compose and share daily with text, images, film, music, and more. Actually one-to-one will support any learning you do. For your objective, what books, online or offline, are necessary. Do students need notebooks, art supplies, manipulatives, and measuring tools? Identifying, then accessing the resources needed prior to the school year sets the stage for a good year.

What do you have to learn to teach the curriculum well?
How have the standards and objectives of the curriculum you teach changed? What new curriculum are you responsible for? How will you boost your knowledge and expertise in those areas over the summer months to prepare for learning? What free or low cost options exist with regard to this learning? Does your system offer learning paths to support your professional work in this regard?

What are the needs, objectives, and processes valued by your team and leadership?
Who will you be working with? What do they value? What is their vision for your collaboration, work, and the overall school effort? What are the favored venues of communication and collaboration? How can you best prepare to be a good team player?

What details are integral to the year ahead?
Details matter with respect to good work, and taking the time to delve into the details before the busy days of the school year make a positive difference in the year's start. First, access and examine school calendars to get a good idea of the year's agendas. Next read all required handbooks, policy statements, and other required lists to understand expectations well. Jot down questions you may have related to those policies, and if needed, set up a date to meet with your administrator over the summer (if he/she is working) to ask those questions so you're clear about expectations. Read State education websites, union websites, and curriculum area websites to gain knowledge of upcoming professional learning events and good resources for your students. Set up and/or revise class websites, data files, and lists to support learners, colleagues, and families. Take care of as many details as possible prior to the start of school, so when the year starts, you're ready to use most of your time in time-on-task teaching/learning endeavor with and for students.

It's best if system leadership thinks ahead of you by making available the resources and structures to support school readiness and planning for every educator. If all information, process, and opportunity are presented during the first week of school then there's little chance educators will be able to access that information or process with care since they'll be too busy with student-related work and effort.

A good rhythm of school system structure, information, resource share, and materials acquisition prepares educators well for most important aspects of the job: well prepared and energized time-on-task with students. Knowing the important questions upfront that relate to this good work is the first step.