Learning to trust my past self
For several years now I have done the majority of my planing for the next school year in June. For example, when school got out in June 2014, I spent several days planning for the 2014-2015 school year. I drew the room set-up I wanted (after looking at tons of teacher Pinterest boards). I revised my long-term plan to include units based on genre rather than simply what book I was “teaching” next. I planned my units, including which texts to read when, which writing assignments students would complete at different parts of the year, etc. I revised my ELA toolkit that I give to kids at the start of the year. I made my August pre-school to-do list.
I find that planning at the end of the school year helps me be realistic of what I can accomplish with students in a year. Usually June is the time I am lamenting the unit I couldn’t fit in because testing/finals, etc. got in the way. It’s also a time when students are pretty candid about what worked and what didn’t work during the school year. All this real-time information helps me make more pragmatic decisions about the next school year. If I wait for August to do this planning, I start to forget the worst of the year before. I see the world of my classroom through rose-colored glasses and forget what skills student come in with in 10th grade, or how much time things take. June is also a time where I have the luxury of doing research about teaching practices and reading new professional books. In August it is all a rush to put the classroom together, make copies, survive meetings, etc. But June is both an exciting and peaceful time for extended planning.
However, I always run into a problem when it comes time to review this work in August. After my teaching brain has been on hiatus, I have fantastic new ideas from great writers and bloggers, writing workshop genres I feel like I must try, and new plans from my collaborating teacher that must be integrated. I’m always tempted to re-write my June plans. But every time I have, every time I feel like I can do something a bit more complex in September, every time I change my June plans drastically, I’ve regretted it.
I’m learning to trust my past self.
I’m learning that “June-Marie” has a perspective that “August-Marie” should value. I’m learning that re-doing the work before I even meet my student doesn’t help that much. This year I spent time in August on the nitty-gritty details – making handouts, updating the website, lesson-planning, etc. I trusted the project packet system that my June-self put together. I trusted the curriculum map that my June-self wrote, and worked on gathering the texts I planned on using, rather than getting brand new ones. So far it has worked well. June-Marie developed some systems that are working with my students this year, in part because these systems allowed August-Marie to pull things together easily for the first few weeks.
Now we are in the thick of it. School has been in session for three full weeks, I’m starting to really teach content, and the systems I developed earlier are starting to fall into place. I will tinker with these systems through the year as I get to know my students. So far, though, I’m glad I trusted my past self.