I love teaching but there is something down right magical about summer! At the beginning of May, doesn’t it seem like summer is ages away? Relax… there’s all kinds of time to wrap up the school year. By the middle of May it becomes obvious just how much there is to do before the school year ends. By the end of May, it’s possible to be whipped into a frenzy while struggling to keep a suddenly wild class on track and wrap up loose ends. Here are some tips to help you finish your school year with your sanity intact:
Next year folder
Have you noticed that a bunch of important paperwork comes with the end of each school year? It’s tempting to toss the notices about fall meetings, next year’s school calendar, textbook orders, etc. on your desk. Don’t do it—you may never see them again! Start a next year folder today! Label a file folder “Next Year” and keep it handy. Pop all of the papers in your folder so you’ll be able to find them when you need them. Take your next year folder to your last faculty meeting of the school year. You’ll need it!
File cabinet clean up
What does the top of your file cabinet look like? Mine is piled high with file folders that I haven’t taken the time to put back where they belong. Not a smart move if you live in earthquake country where we’ve just been told there is a 99.7% chance of a major earthquake in the next 30 years! I could be crushed under mountains of file folders! Join me and resolve to get everything off the top of your file cabinet and filed before the month of May ends.
Get a jump on prep work for next year
Take a minute to think about the beginning of the next school year. What are the things that you always make or prepare for those first weeks? Use the month of May to get some of this prep work finished. Better yet, see if you can get a couple of parents to help you with it! In your next class newsletter or note home, write a couple of “help wanted” ads. Here are some that go in my May newsletter:
Help Wanted—Journal Maker
Help wanted to make a class set (or two!) of journals. A sample and all of the necessary supplies will be sent home with your child in a bag. Work at your own pace! Return the journals to school when they are finished. Time commitment: approximately 30-40 minutes.
Help Wanted—Book Repair
Help wanted taping/repairing books from our classroom library. Books and wide tape provided. Work at your own pace at home! Time commitment: one hour
There’s something pretty wonderful about getting a jumpstart on the next school year! I don’t know about you, but I need some down time in the summer when I don’t even think about school. Having some of these little jobs completed lets me relax and enjoy my summer even more! When you tell parents exactly what the project is, let them know about the time required and give them all the supplies, you might be surprised at how many volunteers you get!
Do you and the other teachers at your grade level make the class lists for the next school year? When you sit down with your colleagues to make the new lists, there's so much to keep in mind. You need to remember which students shouldn’t be in the same school as one another, let alone the same class and which children work well together. It’s such a huge job that comes at such a busy time of the year. Your goal is to create balanced classes for the next school year. Here are my favorite tips to make the process easier:
It helps to do some work before you meet with your colleagues to make the class lists. A week or so before your meeting, write each student’s name on an index card. It's not very original, but I use pink cards for girls and blue cards for boys. Color-coding comes in handy—as I sort the cards into new classes, at a glance I can tell if they are boy/girl balanced.
Jot information about your students on the index cards that will help you come up with equitable classes. I note which students have parents who are willing to volunteer, challenging students and parents, information about reading and math levels, types of special services students receive, ability to work independently, etc.
Encourage the other teachers at your grade level to make sets of cards also. At your placement meeting, sort your cards into new class groups. Refer to your notes on the cards to ensure that each class is fairly balanced. There’s something about spreading the cards out and really looking at them and moving them around that makes this process more effective than just jotting names on class lists.
Here’s to a wonderful month in your classroom! Take a deep breath, summer is around the corner! If you are looking for practical ideas for your classroom that save time and work, take a look at our online courses for teachers. Teachers tell us we’ve helped them put the fun and joy back into teaching—that’s music to our ears.
Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber are a mother-daughter writing team who share a passion for teaching and writing. Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers. Barbara was involved in product development and was a freelance writer exclusively for Frank Schaffer Publications. After “retiring,” she continued writing best-selling products for other publishers. Barbara and her husband live on a farm in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. She has four grown children and four grandchildren. Barbara earned her M.A. at Santa Clara University in California.
Sue Gruber taught grades three, four, five and currently teaches kindergarten. Sue, her husband and son live in Sonoma County, as well. Sue’s first experience as a writer was helping Barbara write a science book for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue has a degree in geology and a strong science background. They continued as a writing team and created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications, Scholastic and other publishers. Sue earned her M.A. at Sonoma State University in California.
Barbara and Sue are partners in Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers. They personally write each course with today’s busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue present information on a practical level. It can be put into action immediately in classrooms. Barbara and Sue provide instructional strategies and management ideas without creating more work for teachers.
The internet allows Barbara & Sue to do the work they love most—work directly with teachers. They are thrilled with the response by teachers to their courses. They have a fresh, teacher-friendly approach to affordably-priced courses. Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber have created exactly what today’s teachers are looking for! You can find out about their courses at www.bgrubercourses.com