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Friday, August 12, 2016

Awakened by School Dreams and Preparing for a New School Year

Like many teachers, school dreams begin to occur in the weeks leading up to the new school year. School dreams mean that you wake up in the middle of the night caught in some kind of nightmare about teaching and learning. The nightmares typically point to an area of school life you're worried or concerned about as you anticipate the year ahead.

There can be lots of reasons why we have these dreams. To some degree, the dreams are born out of our will to do a good job--we're thinking about all the details ahead that we need to attend to in order to teach well. The dreams can also be born out of the mandates we face, mandates we often have little control over. Then there are the personal challenges, the area of school life that is or has been challenging for us. I've actually never read an article about the psychology related to school dreams, and that would be interesting.

Nevertheless as I awaken in the wee hours, I'm thinking about how to manage the year in ways that don't frustrate or upset me similar to the way that yesterday's conference was upsetting since it presented so many great ideas, many which are out of my reach right now due to systematic issues, policies, and current routines. I reached out for a bit of support with these matters after the conference, and perhaps the support will be forthcoming, but as every teacher knows, we can't control all the factors that impact our daily work--factors that far outweigh our time, voice, and choice in school.

There are some areas, however, that I can attend to in the days ahead for which I do have sufficient control over what I can do to prepare for the year ahead. I'll attend to these areas in the days ahead:

Room Set-Up
In the days ahead I'll move desks, cabinets, and shelves. I'll open boxes and sort supplies. I'll make name tags and xerox first day of school activities. And, I'll hang posters and other signage that make the room welcoming and provides students with important information about their schedule.

Class List
Having a good, numbered, and up-to-date class list serves the teaching/learning well all year. Our team has been updating the lists as changes occur prior to the year's start. Most schools see changes in lists right up to and into the first weeks of school and often throughout the year too.

Collegial Meetings
My colleagues and I will meet to plan out the program. Together we'll make a lot of decisions about field trips, special events, materials, and teaching priorities and plans.

Once we receive the school schedule, I'll work with grade-level colleagues and specialists to complete the schedule so that we have a good routine for students by the first day of school. Completing the schedule takes a quite a few hours of collaboration with the many teachers, specialists, and therapists that service students' needs throughout the year.

Learning Experience Prep
Throughout the summer, I've made time to prep most of the initial lessons and learning events, and what's left is matching those events to the schedule.

Curriculum Night Program
Colleagues and I will update the curriculum night program in preparation for the parent meeting that is held the second week of school. We'll have to determine the location and if we want to extend the time or this event. Whatever we do the first weeks of school truly sets the stage for the year to come in a positive way.

Family Newsletter and Website Update
We'll likely send out a parent newsletter sometime in the first week or two to update families, colleagues, administrators, and other interested parties about the initial school plans. We've already sent out and posted an initial letter which includes many details about the school year ahead. Further, we'll update the website we've posted too. The website serves as a "virtual classroom" including almost all the information that pertains to the grade-level program for easy access.

Opportunity Gap
I want to pay close attention to the opportunity gap with regard to all students this year. I want to look for ways to work with colleagues to bridge that gap for any student who is distanced from success due to a lack of opportunity. Simple matters such as a healthy snack, proper clothing, access to technology, adult academic support, and school supplies can distance a child from the success possible. Fortunately I work in a school that has terrific potential to bridge these gaps, and the challenge is early identification, sensitive and timely support, and awareness of when these gaps occur and how to best help a child to access what he/she needs to succeed in school and learning.

Field Trip Calls and Planning
It's almost impossible to make phone calls during the school day so making these calls ahead of the school year helps.

Mandated Trainings
We have about 4-6 hours of online mandated trainings to complete. Once I hear that those trainings have been updated, I'll find some time to fit those in preferably before the school year starts.