A Summer To-Do List for New Teachers

Summer is here! For most of us, anyways–for the teachers who keep working into June, I see you, I feel for you, and that will be me next year. Sigh.

For brand-new (or new-ish) teachers, the summer can be a time of excitement and relaxation combined with a healthy dose of peer pressure, thanks to social media platforms like Instagram. You might think that you need to spend your hard-earned money (that you might not have yet) at Lakeshore Learning and the Target Dollar Spot in order to be prepared for your kids in the fall. You might think that you need to get your class list early and label ALL THE THINGS. You might think that you need to have all of your units planned out and color-coded in your beautiful, personalized Erin Condren planner.

But I’m going to let you in on a secret–you don’t have to! However, there are a few things you can do to get a jump on the school year without feeling like you spent the entire summer stressing and shopping.

I’ve put together a to-do list of things that new teachers should focus on this summer. And I’ll even go so far to say that this list can apply to all teachers, not just those who are starting their careers.

1. Read a really good “teacher book.”

Donalyn Miller = my queen

I don’t think professional development books get as much credit as they deserve. While it can be great to attend conferences and trainings in-person, there’s nothing wrong with taking your professional learning into your own hands and diving into a great book. It’s more affordable and can be done at your own pace, on your own schedule.

My teaching practice was forever changed after I read The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, both by the literacy guru Donalyn Miller. Her books opened my eyes to what authentic literacy instruction could and should look like, and I went back into the classroom feeling refreshed and ready to help my students learn to love reading.

Below are some books I recommend:

  • The Book Whisperer
  • Reading in the Wild
  • Teach Like Finland
  • Who’s Doing the Work?
  • Comprehension and Collaboration

2. Hide Your Wallet.

These Target Dollar Spot apples are a prime example of something that is cute, but not necessary.

For a bigger list of things you don’t need to buy in order to be a good teacher, click here.

If you’re a teacher on Instagram during the summer, you would think that in order to have a successful school year, you need to purchase ALL THE THINGS from the Target Dollar Spot. Who cares if you don’t have a plan for how to use those adorable adhesive llamas? YOU NEED THEM! Who cares if you haven’t even seen your classroom and have no idea what the teacher before you left behind? BUY THOSE MATCHING BINS, GOSH DARNIT!

But here’s the thing–you don’t need them. I am just as guilty of going as hard in the Dollar Spot as any other red-blooded American teacher. I’ve bought my fair share of adhesive squares and colorful tassel garland and $3 maps of the United States. But last summer, I just stopped. I realized that I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel when it came to decorating my classroom, and I certainly didn’t need to be buying items that I couldn’t immediately think of a use for.

Teachers have enough stuff, and you don’t need to be buying anything before you see your classroom and what materials you already have to work with. Believe me, it’s easy to end up spending hundreds of your own dollars on your classroom, so do yourself–and your bank account–a favor and hide your wallet until you know that you absolutely need something. Once you get inside your classroom, you will have a much better idea of what you actually need. This will prevent you from spending money unnecessarily and accumulating a bunch of stuff you might not ever use.

P.S. This tip can also be applied to the fancy teacher planners. If you want one and can afford it, then go for it! No shame in that game. But if you’re on the fence, that $60+ can probably be put to better use. Plus, if you’re not a planner person to begin with, you probably won’t end up using it enough to get your money’s worth.

3. Start building a classroom library.

Our library at the beginning of the school year. That coffee table was long gone by October. #RIP

To read all of my tips about how to save money while developing a great library, click here.

I think that all teachers should have a classroom library, and this is definitely true for elementary teachers. Having a wide variety of books available at a child’s fingertips is so important for their development as readers. If they don’t have to wait for their weekly trip to the school library to pick up a new book when they finish their current one, they’re going to read a lot more. The summer is a great time to stock up on books for your classroom library and get them labeled and organized before the school year starts.

I’m also a big proponent of building your library on the cheap! You shouldn’t be spending too much of your own money to build your library. DonorsChoose, Amazon wish lists, FirstBook, and used bookstores are all excellent ways to create a classroom library without going bankrupt.

4. Start looking over your curriculum, but don’t make too many plans.

If you have access to your standards and curriculum before you begin whatever training your district has you do, I highly recommend that you spend some time looking it over. Get familiar with the skills, concepts, and units that you will be expected to teach. Think about or research the read-alouds that you want to use in your classroom. If you have more autonomy over the order you teach the standards in, start thinking about how you could group those standards together to create your own units.

However, I would also encourage you to not make too many plans. You may find that you need to stay on the same page as the rest of your team, or that you get a last-minute subject change or addition. You don’t want to have sunk hours of work into plans that you may not be able to use. If you do feel a strong need to plan ahead, I would focus only on the first week of school. Pick out some welcoming read-alouds, plan some ice-breakers and get-to-know-you activities, and have a plan for how you’re going to ease your students back into the routine of going to school. Your future self will thank you for having that figured out when you’re facing the chaos of putting your classroom together.

If you’re anything like me, having absolutely nothing on your summer agenda is fun for all of about three weeks. There’s only so much Netflix I can watch, coffee I can drink, and books I can read before I start going a little crazy and get the itch to be productive. Hopefully, these tips will help you prepare for going into your classroom without overwhelming you!

What do you suggest new or new-ish teachers do over the summer? Let me know in the comments!

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