During a small group outing to Burton Barr Library, one of my students directed me to “Look up at that, Mrs. Wheelington!” I did, and I saw something I never saw before…a rainbow inside a cloud. I posted a picture here and I hope you can see it. As I am a spiritual person, I took this to represent a symbol of hope, promise, and courage.
Now I have to be honest. I just want everyone to know that I saw a rainbow in a cloud. I looked it up and learned it is a cloud iridescence and is commonly called a fire cloud. It is rare. I am special.
Yet, the cloud stayed in the sky and I had to go back to class. Here we are at the beginning of the year. It was time to lay the foundation that will make sure I get to the end of the year satisfied with what I have offered. Here it is (so far) listed, but not necessarily in this order. I hope you find something useful:
- I reviewed the standards – I reviewed the Math and ELA standards and identified key vocabulary for all of the grade levels that I teach. I have the main concepts broken out for each standard so I can use it as a guide throughout the year. This is important for me because it helps me start the year with fresh eyes.
- I synchronized all of my calendars (personal, Professional Learning Community (PLC) Days, district, school, family, class).
- I sent out appointment reminders– This year, I am the PLC lead for my team. My responsibilities include reminding people of upcoming PLCs. I sent them an appointment via Outlook, which includes a reminder. Done.
- I picked a never-ending theme that can develop with my class throughout the year. Every year I pick a theme that can move across all curriculum areas. One year, it was the American Revolution. This year, it is Peace. This year includes a study of the United Nations and their 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the book “The Christmas Truce” by Aaron Sheperd which will extend into a class play and poem memorization, the Peace Pole and recreation of one, multiple presentations, class projects, outreach, field trips, and guest speakers. And also… (see, never-ending). This approach bridges easily to social studies, history, art, music, and science while building up community and content knowledge to be applied in math, language, writing and geometry. It is also large enough for no one to become bored.
- I started gathering data – Baseline data should be easy to come by from your administration. Additional data can be gathered from observations, student work samples, and basic skill assessments by grade level. Data is shared with students and parents and we work together to identify student-focused learning goals.
- I picked an overarching academic goal that will strengthen student learning. This year, I will be focusing on academic conversations. I find that this supports many other academic areas including student to student, differentiation, and critical thinking. All of these require impactful instruction which links to teacher planning and knowledge of content. I am using the book The K-3 Guide to Academic Conversations by Jeff Zwiers and Sara Hamerla, which is full of resources, tips, and guidance.
- We practiced school routines. This includes practicing fire drills and lockdown practice before the school ones. I find that being proactive in this area reduces stress for the children and makes the real drills quicker, safer, and better learning opportunities.
- I updated my technology and internet resources/tools. Technology, when used correctly, can help a lesson move from good to great. The Homeroom article 5 Supplemental Resources for Difficult Subjects has a listing of free online tools. I especially enjoy Circle Round.
- I listened to advise from other teachers. The S6 Episode 1: 3Ps in a Pod Top 10 Tips for Back to School from AZk12 is a great resource to listen to on the run.
- I supported another teacher. It is important to take the time to connect with new teachers and our peers. We all need each other. Sharing information that can benefit another teacher is also an unspoken courtesy between us. Therefore, I share this information with you:
The AZK12 Center has secured funding to support Arizona teachers seeking National Board Certification! Funding will cover all four components and includes a $225.00 credit for AZK12 eligible candidate support events. No special invitation is needed, and this is a first-come, first served opportunity. If you are ready or simply interested, I encourage you to visit the AZK12 National Board Candidacy Support Program for more information or contact them at:
Arizona K12 Center
99 E Virginia Ave, Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 8500
602.443.6444 (Main) | 602.443.6454 (Fax)
NOW is your time to become a candidate for National Board Certification!
Have a great year!
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