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Counting Down the Mondays With the Four R’s

If you are like me, you are counting down the number of Mondays until the end of the school year. You may not know exactly how many days are left in total but boy, oh boy, do you know how many more times you have to set your alarm clock on a Sunday night.

In my district, there are four more Mondays. Granted, just three of those days include students (the last is a Teacher Workday/Exchange Day) but all four include setting the alarm clock and hitting the snooze button at least once in the morning.

Therefore, as we wrap up this school year, I thought I’d give some advice for teachers as they’re closing out their 2018-2019 school year. Whether you are a first-year teacher pumped to have survived or a 30-year veteran just waiting on retirement, we can all use some end-of-the-year advice. So, for each of these last four Mondays, I am going to focus on one of the Four R’s. You’ll have to tune in each week to see what they are! Let’s go.

The first ‘R’ is reflect. A great teacher reflects all year long, from thinking about what did and didn’t work in lesson plans to what is an is not working in classroom management plans, but it is especially important to reflect at the end of the year.

As you finish out the days, think about what did and did not work for you. If, like me, you are in the middle of that wonderful testing season, use the time while you are actively monitoring to process through the past 180 days. What worked? What didn’t? What would you like to tweak? What are you going to totally scrap and what are you going to keep?

For some teachers, they will never change up their lesson plans. They’ve got the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality and this shows in their lessons. They won’t spend any time planning new, innovative lessons, and, in August, will just pull out the same old worksheets and textbook lessons.

Don’t let that be you. I’m not saying you have to reinvent the entire wheel every year but you should constantly be thinking about things to change or upgrade. And you can’t determine what needs to be tweaked if you aren’t reflecting. To get you started, here are some questions to guide your thinking process (my answers are in red just for fun): 

1. What’s something big that you tried this year that didn’t have quite the results you were hoping for? Maybe a project or an interactive activity. Perhaps you tried an escape room and it didn’t go well or a simulation went off the rails. Can you tweak it for next year? Or does it need to be scrapped entirely? 
I tried a medieval times diorama project. This was a big flop. I think it was because they were having to do the research themselves and we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the research. I also had a particularly lazy group of kids this year. I will definitely be tweaking this for next year. I also started with a cool time traveler theme and idea this year that kind of fizzled mid-way through the year so I definitely want to work on this for next year.

2. How can you increase student engagement next year? What was something you tried this year, like an activity or a presentation, that really got their attention? Can you incorporate more of this next year? 
My students really love when I dress up or we do simulations. I started the year with a time traveler theme and mystery story line and it fizzled halfway through the year. I plan to spend the summer working on taking that further! 

3. Is there some kind of activity that you really want to try and just haven’t yet? Spend some time this summer planning a new activity! You won’t know if it’ll be awesome or a failure if you don’t try.
I really want to try digital breakouts. These seem so fun! We did a paper escape room (thank you teacherspayteachers) but I want to try and make my own! 

4. How did you do with classroom management this year? What worked along the way and what didn’t? Do you need to just adjust your current behavior plan or should you start completely over? As class sizes across the board get bigger, behavior and discipline concerns can become more prevalent. 
This year, I did better with giving consequences and not just warnings but I still am not great at that so I want to improve on that. I also used a ‘clip chart’ system towards the end of the year (I’m going to do a blog post on that soon) which was helpful but tedious and time-consuming. So I have not yet figured out the magic behavioral system but I am going to keep working on it! 

5. What kind of things did you do for yourself to keep yourself going this year? Maybe you stayed away from the lounge where the negative teachers gather. Maybe you found a new hobby or a new activity to rejuvenate yourself this year. Was it enough to keep your morale up or do you need to think of some new free-time activities? We all know that we gotta keep ourselves happy and motivated if we want to stay sane! 
I kept up with volunteering at the animal shelter and sometimes that was the only way I kept my sanity. I also got back into watching The Amazing Race which is a great way to unwind. I want to do more with my writing and building my author platform. And eat less cake!

As the school year winds down, use the time to reflect. I know lots of teachers just want to be done thinking about school but, I guarantee you, if you take the time to think about what can be improved, you’ll start the next year out with a much better outlook and much more prepared. Trust me. 

What are some things you are reflecting on at the end of the year? Any big changes you plan to implement? I’d love to hear about them! Sound off in the comments.

For now…that’s a wrap!