We know the beginning of a new school year can be nerve-racking, but remember, it’s also a chance to make a fresh start. There’ll be new students, new material – perhaps even a new school and colleagues? All of these factors contribute to a “clean slate.” Of course, feeling energized about a new semester has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with how well organized you were at the end of last school year and the pre-time you put in over the summer. Not sure where to start? These five steps will put you on the path to feeling rested and ready to make a strong start to this school year.
1. End the year well
Before walking out the door and running into the arms of your holidays, be sure to “close” the semester mentally, emotionally, and literally. Having closure lets you finish the previous chapter and prepare you to tackle the next one when it’s time.
Start with your desk – whether it’s at home or at your school, clear it off, recycle any unnecessary paperwork, and throw away old whiteboard markers. Later, move on to your textbooks, lesson plans, and notes, and archive them in a way that is easy to locate and understand when the new year begins. Following this, label and organize any ideas and notes you’ve collected for future lesson plans in a separate folder. These tactics eliminate clutter from your mind and workspace and contribute to a “fresh slate” feeling when the next semester starts.
2. Evaluate and set goals
Entrepreneurs and leaders recommend self-evaluation as a tool for setting and achieving goals.
To evaluate the last semester, ask yourself two questions: “What went well in my teaching this year?” and “What didn’t go so well?”
Focus on aspects you have control over rather than what you can’t change. There is a difference between saying “my lessons were ruined because the in-class internet kept shutting down,” and “I wasn’t confident in my ability to improvise my lesson when things didn’t go to plan.” The second reflection is something you can work on.
Later, highlight some goals for the next academic year. Make them specific and consider grouping them under categories.
1. Attend a conference in my city.
2. Reach out to a professional I admire.
1. Create a folder of activities organized by grammar point.
2. Set aside one hour after each work day to prepare for the next.
Write them down and file them: you’ll be revisiting them during your annual review. There are a number of resources online to help you perform self evaluations. Chris Guillebeau’s writing is a good place to start.
Commit to using at least some of your holidays to truly disconnect from work. A week away at the beach or mountains is wonderful, but, if that isn’t possible, then never underestimate the value of small things. A day chatting with a good friend over coffee, lunchtime picnics that turn into lazy evenings, reading your way through a stack of novels, doing a short course for a hobby your love, or finally listening to all those podcasts you’ve subscribed to. These moments will rejuvenate you during holidays and help you get mentally prepared for the start of the year.
4. Treat yourself to new office supplies
Treating yourself to an affordable splurge really boosts positive feelings, amiright? So buy that amazing, though slightly too-expensive, notebook and pick up that handmade laptop case from the weekend market. For smaller treats, choose a pen that writes beautifully, new whiteboard markers in funky colors, or a gorgeous wall calendar. Want a quirky twist? Order yourself personalized Post-it notes for making lists and writing notes.
5. Tackle pre-term preparation in the second-to-last holiday week
This will give you the final week to truly relax. Block out time to download materials, read through new books you’ll be working on, plan the first few lessons, and organize your work bag. Doing these small things will take the rush out of your final few days of vacation.
As a teacher, the beginning of a new academic year is your chance for a fresh start. Use these five simple tips to help you optimize your semester and vacation time so that you feel organized and recharged when you step back into the classroom.