A New Year Approaches! What to Do Before Class Starts


I wrote this article for Newsela’s blog. You can read the article on their site, linked here!

Few roles have the cyclical nature that teaching does. While we may look forward to the summer (especially those last two weeks of school…. woof), there’s something so exciting about getting a fresh start in the fall.

To ease the transition, I’ve compiled some tips for new and veteran teachers alike to make sure all t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. Even if you’ve already started back (looking at you, charter school teachers!), these tips are great for the first few weeks of school.

#1) Get them digits!

You will inevitably need to call home for your kiddos. Hopefully you can make as many positive deposits before making a negative “withdrawal.” When I taught, I kept a Google Sheet tracker so I could tally each positive and negative contact. I tried to do 5-1 to ensure I was winning parents’ trust!

To make getting a hold of parents as easy as possible, here are a few tips:

  1. If your school uses a management system like DeansList, you can use their iPhone app to automatically have all parents’ numbers are your fingertips!
  2. If you’re on your own to get numbers, create a Google Form that students/families can fill out so you’ll have a neat spreadsheet. With this spreadsheet, you can import the numbers into your phone quickly! There are a few ways to do this, but this web tutorial is how I did it!

#2) Have a DonorsChoose (or three) in the Works!

Humblebrag: I have raised more than $25,000 in grants for my kiddos! This wasn’t magic. I just post a lot of DonorsChoose. The beginning of the school year is a really smart time to do this. Donors know teachers are in need, and companies like Google will often “flash fund” all projects in a given area (e.g. all of Boston).

Post a few projects. The worst-case scenario is that it doesn’t get funded, but you also might magically wake up to all of your projects being funded!

#3) Bake Personalized Learning into Your Lesson/Unit Plans!

Every teacher wants to reach every student and make a difference in their lives. But when it’s “Darktober” and you’re trying to just get through the day, it can be hard to do this. So, pre-plan personalization now, when you are more energized and the days are longer.

That could look like:

  • Setting goals for your blended learning programs (like, ahem, having each student complete 3 Newsela quizzes a week),
  • Building in 1:1 check-ins with each student where you set and assess goal progress, or
  • Adding personalized work time into your class where students can complete work that is customized to their current performance level.

Have any other tips you follow religiously as a new year starts? Drop your knowledge below, in the comments!

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