Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back-to-school: preparation goals

If you're like me, school will start in less than a month, and you're starting to think about all the things you need to do.

Scholastic has a great checklist to get you started.

Here are some things on my list: (I will update and cross off with dates, as I complete them)

1. Write back-to-school letter. 7/18/2012 (file linked; be aware: google docs destroys file formatting)
2. Revamp organizational tools (more info to come).
3. Plan first week (what are my priorities and when - because face it, we can't fit it all in....I will probably devote a blog entry to this later).
4. Prepare for cross-country season (practice schedule, letters home, etc. - chances are, you have your own "cross country" obligation looming)
5. Pick a day for drama club informational meeting (yep, I am that crazy teacher who has more than one after school commitment)
6. Complete my application for the Literacy Fair funds (I am the VP for our local council for the International Reading Association).
7. Consider my goals for the year and maybe start doing a formal write-up to turn in to my principal.
8. Organize my science files (they are literally thrown in the drawer; thankfully social studies is neat and tidy)
9. Update website (which I have to postpone until I am trained on how to use the new website)

Pointers for writing a back-to-school letter:
  • Keep it short and sweet (Save the details for your syllabus - I give students 5 points at the end of the year if they still have the syllabus. Let them be responsible for this information).
  • Provide contact information (yes this is a website era - but parents are not always into that).
  • Throw a picture or two on there (makes it feel friendly).
  • Share your enthusiasm for getting to know their students!
  • Give a little info about you (what subjects you teach, extra-curriculars, some basic expectations).
  • Include a cut-off for signing and checking boxes. This can be complex or simple. Complex includes student learning styles, allergies, and whatever else you might want to know.
Obviously I am a secondary teacher with a separate syllabus that my students are responsible for (not a possibility for elementary level). We also do a parent night where we go in depth on expectations and allow parents to ask questions (without students present). Knowing this, I have a lot of flexibility in doing as much or as little as I want. My preference is to keep this short and sweet (I am a minimalist). I just want to make a quick connection, make sure parents have my contact information and give them an opportunity to feel comfortable with me. My photo makes it more personal, so they can recognize me in the hall or know they entered the right room if they are looking for me). It also provides a little extra information (like that I am married) without going into a whole long biography. I include the extra-curriculars so parents know that although I would like to be available every day after school, I have other student-focused obligations (I am not just an absentee teacher). In terms of my cut-off at the bottom. I have found that I tend to file these things away and rarely return to them, thus, again, I keep it simple. Basics: how would you prefer I get hold of you if I need to share a glow or grow (something your student did that was great, or something we need to work on), and if I can use student photos on the school website. This second one is already available in the files online - but I find it's easier to have my own set of these. I can file students into "use and not use files" so it's easy to double check and I can familiarize myself with the ones I can't use.

Good luck getting ready for the year!

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