Starting Fresh: A Reflection to Start Summer

The past week has been a whirlwind of starting to wind down and say goodbye to the 2016-2017 school year. Students finished their Common Growth Assessment writing test and also their last blog post. The final days are both bittersweet and painful. Mainly because everyone wants a break, but also because it isn't any fun to say goodbye. 

I put together my observations from the past week as a I begin to close down this year and look to 2017-2018 after a much deserved break. 

Observation #1: 

I have too much stuff. I immediately set to work to fill not one but two dumpsters worth of stuff I do not need anymore. Angela Watson's post about purging helped me realize that the stuff I carry around is only holding me down, not lifting me up. I had a back room full of well....stuff. Here are some big things I threw away:

  1. Curriculum resources from 2010-2015. 
  2. A million student work samples (I saved a few....just enough to use)
  3. Broken markers or crayons.
  4. A broken chair. 
  5. Old posters that are no longer needed. 

I think it is important to realize that as teachers we are always afraid of losing stuff or not being ready for the next lesson. I can make do. Even without all the fancy technology, the backup to the backup plans, and the broken crayons from 2010. I also consolidated a lot of stuff. I moved things down to our resource book room. I feel lighter. 

Observation #2

I got organized. After purging, I realized it would be far too easy to shove the stuff I couldn't part with back into the same open spaces. I got organized. Scope magazines went into their rightful place. I moved things around. I made my space smaller. I realized that my teacher desk was consuming a lot of not needed space that could be used to make their seating easier. While it is not easy sitting 37 in a class, my space could be smaller so that theirs could be bigger and easier to manage. I realized I didn't need a command center to operate my classroom.

I really love moving my classroom around. Ask the math teacher on my team. I love the idea of starting fresh in big ways and little ways that keep me inspired as a teacher and keep me motivated as a student of my practice. 

Here is a general peek into my room in 2015:

And here are a couple of changes...

I moved the student file station to the back of the room. Previously, this was up by my desk. I wanted their to be a clear separation of space so that they have their area and I have mine. 

This is my much smaller desk area. I have always loved books with the spine facing inward on my desk, however, I am really digging this vibe of being open. Students approached my desk from all sides. I felt accessible to them. Not closed up in my Bat Cave of Doom. I started to wonder about the importance of where a teacher desk is positioned and how much space it takes up. Does it even matter? My classroom management instincts might argue probably not. 

Observation #3:

Some students want to go, some students want to stay. There has been an increase in the past week of students who can feel the change in the classroom now looking more bare and take that as a signal to do one of two things: 1.) Cling to me with dear life 2.) Start the separation process with making some distance. Both of these are normal. I find that my general education students are having a harder time letting go. Summer can be a great time to rejuvenate; however, as educators we must remember that sometimes school is the sanctuary for students. We are their family sometimes. Sometimes...summer is just plain hard to face. I am open to either reaction. 

Observation #4: 

I need to have more realistic expectations when I am packing my boxes to take home. In the past, I have brought everything home. It stays in my garage or downstairs and waits patiently for me to open it up and change the world. However, let's be more truthful. I am not going to get as much done as I think I am. The main reason? I am tired. We are all tired. We have to fill the tank of teaching back up for success. These 10 lbs of stress weight? Have got to go. 

I did teach summer school for the first two years of teaching, and I still teach writing camps in the summer. But now I limit this down to two weeks. I know that something will come up like it always does. My bathroom will get renovated with my dad, or we will work on the deck, or I will spend more time with my nieces (can't wait). I should let myself breathe. I have three main areas of focus for the summer time:

Focus 1: Read more books.

Focus 2: Revamp my lessons for units 1 and 2. 

Focus 3: Writing Mindset. 

All three of these things feed into kids; however, they also sew into me. I want to read more so I can help them read more. I want my lessons for the first 12 weeks of school to be revamped so that is done and a firm game plan is good to go. In the past, I would have done the whole school year, and this is the epitome of "doing too much." Also, I want to blog. I love writing and working on my passion project Writing Mindset helps me develop ideas and reflect. I love this quotation from M. Colleen Cruz:

Observation #5: 

Besides the three focus areas, I am going to choose one area to really hone in on and make better for the next academic year. When I was a new teacher, I wanted to get better at all of it quickly. I have now shifted perspective into how can I get better at one thing at a time and make my pile grow. My area of growth for the 2017-2018 school year is controlling paper. I vow to get better at the paperwork because I think it could be the end of my teaching career if I don't do something about it. Does anybody have any ideas? I would love to start tackling the paper mountain for 2017-2018. This is my other area of focus for the summer. I am excellent at accumulating and finding resources...now I must read them. 

Where I will start:

Catlin Tucker's Blog

The Secondary English Coffee Shop Blog

Writing Mindset Reflection: How will you improve over the summer time? What will you do to take care of yourself? What changes have you made to set yourself up for success for next year?