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Ask the teacher: What is your top tip for preparing for the new school year?

Back to school
The three words that every teacher dreads, signaling the end of summer freedom… “back to school”!  With the first day of the new school year coming up, starting to think about classroom organization, curriculum planning, and lesson ideas will help us get ready to get into the swing of things.

As much as we love and want to do our best for our students, sometimes the workload gets overwhelming. Here some teachers share their ideas for prepping for the new school year:

1. Plan, plan, plan, and then double-check the plan

“To prepare for the new school year, teachers should have routines and procedures planned out in a thoughtful and specific way.”
– Chelsea Howells (@chelsea2832), McNiel Middle School, Wichita Falls ISD

It seems an obvious strategy, but planning ahead is so important. While it may seem like a chore, the truth is that the more detailed and well-considered your plans are, the easier life will be once the school year has begun. Take some time to think about classroom routines and processes. Routines calm and comfort children, and starting the school year with a solid one and following through has been proven to increase learning. Get great inspiration for classroom routines here.

2. Dive straight into fun

“Grab the kids with something interesting quickly!”
– Laura Smith (@laurabsmith58), Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville Graded School District
Fact: kids get bored easily! Hit the ground running with a handful of exciting activities to excite them about what they are going to learn this year.  If you are studying friction, the Ancient Romans, Pythagoras theorem, volcanoes, and Romeo and Juliet why not start this year getting students to discover the topics?

Get students excited for the year to come and half your work is done!

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3. Don’t forget the data

How often do you make teaching decisions based on student and classroom data? My guess is pretty regularly. At least that’s what I used to think when I was a teacher: “I definitely review my student understanding through summative assessment at the end of every topic AND at the end of the semester. Plus there is the formative assessment I conduct each week. This impacts what I teach next and whether I should reteach a topic/ standard/ skill/ student/ class (delete where appropriate!). I might even consider sharing this data with my department and moving students up or down sets.”
But (and there is a big BUT), I wasn’t using a consistent method with a year-long game plan.
Quizalize’s new Mastery Dashboards make it easy for teachers to track student data both instantaneously and over time. They give you an up-to-date view of student mastery across learning objectives, topics, and skills within your curriculum, helping you see which students are struggling, and which topics the class or individual students need help with. Learn more about them here.

4. Tech it up!

“I always make a Google Doc and folder in my Drive for all of my EdTech ideas before school starts. I try to make several online quizzes, assignments, and videos to last me through the first few crazy weeks of school.”
– Jamie Jo Morgan (@JamieJoMorgan), Wichita Falls, ISD
So your school or district purchases a shiny new piece of EdTech software, and everyone’s excited to use it. But… how does it work?
The summer holidays sometimes addles teachers’ brains as much as it does students’, so it’s a good idea to refresh your familiarity with EdTech tools before the new school year begins. Ensure you are properly on-boarded with any new (or old) software available to you, and create some activities for your students to help yourself through the first couple of weeks.
EdTech products constantly roll out new features and updates that could greatly benefit your teaching. Useful tip: Assign one person in your school to be an ambassador for each product, get them to explore the help pages and then share updates and ideas with colleagues at start-of-term PD sessions.

5. Remember: You are going to smash this!

“To be flexible, everything will change and it is much easier if you can move with the flow.”
– Jessica Mitchell (@mindofmitchell), McNiel Middle School, Wichita Falls ISD
“Don’t allow negative thoughts to overwhelm you and just relax!”
– Tammy McDorman (@80sgirl1987), Fowler, Wichita Falls ISD
Your mental health is important, and dare I say it, more important than student learning. After all, students depend on teachers for so many things, and if we’re not doing well, how can our students thrive?
Look after yourself first and you will naturally create a welcoming learning environment. Use an app like Calm for improved sleep, helping you start fresh every morning. Keep workplace stress to a minimum with a healthy mindset — I use early morning meditation or yoga with my students, which is healthy for both body and mind and lets them see how I deal with stress too!
It is easy to worry yourself silly with targets and deadlines, but people have been known to perform better just by having a growth mindset. Try these great tips for introducing a growth mindset into your classroom, for both yourself and the kids.
We are lucky to have lots of dedicated teachers at Quizalize, none more so than our fabulous group of Quizalize Professors. These teacher superstars have been sharing with us their best tips for the start of term, so watch this space!

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