As a teacher, the #1 priority during the Back-to-School season is preparing your classroom. The tricky part comes when district/state requirements leave you in professional development sessions during your contracted hours, meaning you have little to no time left in the day to work in your classroom to prepare it for students.
Administrators are required by law to prepare teachers with instructional best practices and they do that through training. Training hours are reserved for the few days leading up to school. With schools being cleaned over the summer, many buildings cannot allow teachers back in until the week prior to the opening of school. Every year, teachers complain about this lack of time and stress levels rise. Many teachers stay late into the evenings and arrive at school very early in the morning just to get their work done.
What a scheduling nightmare!
What ends up happening is a lose-lose scenario. The PD sessions are often not as effective as they could be because teachers are frustrated, disconnected and often found creating to-do lists for their classrooms instead of utilizing the dedicated PD time learning. The lack of time spent in classrooms means a half-ready classroom for students and a half- learned PD schema for teachers. Lose-Lose.
Neither of those scenarios is what is best for kids.
If administrators are capable of slowly rolling out PD over a week or so that would leave teachers with time to focus on their classrooms while completing the necessary learning hours required by the state and district within the necessary timeframe.
This might look like having the initial meeting with teachers where principals can share opening remarks and updates, then hold off on any and all instructional PD until after the first day of school.
Instruction should begin Day 1 , but any new instructional initiatives can be rolled out the first week instead of the first day. What this might look like is allow teachers to solely work in their classrooms leading up to the first day. The first day of school will be a whirlwind and super exhausting, but Day 2 is a great day to keep staff after school for a PD session. Now that rooms are set up, teachers are ready to listen and engage. Plus, after Day 1 instruction, teachers are ready to start diving into the good stuff and any new initiatives can be implemented at this time.
See how one principal does it here:
If the administrative team is unable to accommodate the teachers’ request of working solely in their classrooms the days leading up to the first day of school, then there are a few suggestions for teachers to ensure they can still be prepared for their students.
- Tip 1– Ask your principal to share the PD schedule and any other required meetings ahead of time so that you can block these times off in your calendar and plan your own tasks around these events.
- Tip 2– Before the Back-to-School season begins, create a to-do list of items you know you need to accomplish to get your classroom ready. Front load thinking and planning so you can move to action quickly once you are allowed back into the building.
- Tip 3– When at school, only complete items that require you physically being in the school/classroom. All other tasks can be completed after hours at home. (ie. Re-arranging classroom furniture requires your presence at school where lesson planning can be completed outside of school.)
- Tip 4– Prioritize tasks based on what has to get done versus what would be nice to get done. Make a “MUST DO vs MAY DO” task list. Many principals require bulletin boards to be completed so the hallways look finished when students and parents come through for Back-to-School night. This would become a ‘must do’ item since it is required. If your room had to be taken down for cleaning over the summer, then placing furniture and decluttering storage items is a ‘must do’ item. Deciding where students are going to sit, however, can wait. You want the space to be visually ready, but tiny decor details can wait. Once the first day of school is over, you can continue to ready the room with minor details and touches, but the big things need to get completed first.
- Tip 5– Plan to make copies when the copier is not busy. This usually occurs in the early or late hours when most teachers are not yet or no longer at school. Wasting precious time at the copier when things need to get completed in your classroom is not time well spent.
- Tip 6– Enlist help from friends and family. Appoint these members with tasks that require little knowledge of content (ie. setting up desks, placing butcher paper on bulletin boards, etc) and save your brain power for all things instruction.
What suggestions do you have for teachers in preparing their classrooms during Back-to-School season?