Back to school preparation for teachers has been pretty standard in the past. If you’ve been teaching for a while, you know the drill. Your school district releases the next school year’s calendar in the spring, and you mark your first professional development date for the fall on your calendar. Once school is done for the spring semester, you go about your business during your summer break until that first professional development date rolls around.
But this year is different. Thanks to COVID-19, there’s been nothing but uncertainty when it comes to how classes should be run and how learning will happen. Your school calendar might have changed once or twice. You think you know when school starts, but that could change again. Due to the constant changes, you’ve probably been checking email and communicating with your campus contacts more this summer than all of the other years combined.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Should I prepare for in-person classes or virtual classes?”
The answer is: YES.
If your campus is currently scheduled to start the school year in person, you’ll want to have your virtual classroom set up and ready to go. In the event there’s an uptick of cases in your area and your local entities require schools to implement distance learning, your virtual classroom will already be up and running, and you won’t have to scramble the way you did in the spring. Even if your campus remains in onsite mode the entire year, having a virtual classroom set up from the get-go will allow you to be ready at any time for children whose modifications allow them to implement virtual learning. Additionally, you’ll save time with absent students because they’ll be able to get their lessons and work online without you having to drop everything when they return after the absence to ask what they missed and request their handouts.
If your school is slated to begin the school year in a virtual format, there’s still a chance that later in the year, you might transition back to onsite teaching. When your school opens up to personnel for the fall semester, if it is safe to do so, you might consider organizing your classroom so you can easily retrieve any materials, supplies or manipulatives you might need to grab every couple of weeks for your distance learning lessons. If you have an organized supply stash, even if your classroom isn’t “show ready,” you’ll be able to transition back to onsite more quickly without having to cram in a dozen hours to set it up from scratch.
What you can do for back to school preparation
Even though it’s your vacation, and you won’t get paid for what I’m about to recommend, I urge you to consider what I’m about to share with you so that you remove at least one element of stress at the beginning of the upcoming school year.
Are you ready?
Here’s my advice:
Between now and the start of school, spend a couple of hours each week:
*Mapping out your unit/thematic outline for the first six weeks
*Developing a rough draft of your lessons for the first six weeks
*Determining what supplies – if any – will be needed so that you know what to organize
*Creating your lessons – including assignment and handouts – for the first two weeks of school and posting these in your virtual classroom.
You can designate a part of one day each week during your remaining vacation time to do this, or you can work on this one hour per day then go play. Just be sure to remember that this is still your vacation time, so you don’t want to go overboard and spend all of your time in back to school preparation for the next school year. You need this break so you can recharge…to be ready for anything and everything that will happen in the 2020-2021 school year.
I’ve seen several school district calendars from across the country, and a number of them have left off some traditionally important calendar time before school starts: a workday to set up your lessons and classroom.
Between these types of calendars and remembering the mad dash in the spring to go from onsite to virtual teaching within the span of a couple of days, this is why it’s important to start planning your school year now and to be ready for your first two weeks when your school year officially begins.