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Planning ahead after a challenging year

New York Teacher
Cartoon graphic of a man reaching for a book on a bookshelf

As the last day of school approaches, it’s natural for both you and your students to feel a complex range of emotions. You may be feeling proud of what you and your colleagues have accomplished and relieved that this challenging year has come to an end.

As you look forward to the summer break, there are some steps you can take now to prepare yourself for a smoother return to school in the fall.

Get organized. First, if you’re teaching from a classroom you expect to return to in September, take some time in the next few weeks to organize your physical space. It can be tempting to toss your materials into a closet and lock the door, but you’ll thank yourself for arranging them in a way that makes sense to you in the fall. There may be books you want to bring home with you over the summer, charts you want to preserve for future reference and examples of student work you want to save.

While you’re surveying your materials, think about where the gaps are in your resources — books you may need, lessons you want to revise, projects you’d like to expand — so that you can continue to build your arsenal of teaching tools for next year.

Check in with your colleagues. The last few weeks of the school year are naturally hectic. But while you still have your colleagues’ ears, it is a good time to ask any outstanding questions you may have. If you are planning to work in this year’s expanded summer school program, you may want to ask your more experienced colleagues for their ideas and advice. You may have colleagues who are preparing to check in with each other over the summer to plan and revise curriculum, and you may be interested in participating.

Ready, set, read. Whatever your plans, many teachers say that summer is a great time to catch up on reading. You may decide to delve into new curriculum materials, or you may finally have time to do your own reading for pleasure. Consider adding to your personal reading list books that would appeal to your students.

Finally, reflect. Summer is a natural time to reflect on your practice as a teacher and look ahead to the new school year. That reflection is especially important this year because the 2021–22 school year will likely feel very different from this one and you’ll want to help your students navigate that change. Are there elements from this school year you’d like to preserve? What do you want to do differently? How can you help your students recover from the upheaval and challenges of the past year?

“I am always thinking about what I can do to plan for the future,” says Ana Schiaffino, a first-year teacher at PS 277@291 in Long Island City, Queens. “I am already thinking about how I can enhance my beginning-of-the-year lessons in every way to support my students socially, emotionally and academically in coming back to school after a truly traumatic experience from the pandemic.”

Related Topics: New Teachers, Pedagogy