How To Prep For The Upcoming School Year

This summer has been quite different for me as far as my normal back to school routine. Normally, I go up to the school a little here and there throughout the summer and try to keep things going, organize my room for the first few weeks of school, do some research for lesson plans, make copies, etc. I really like to be just about ready to go when in-service starts so that my stress level is down and I can turn my eyes toward my students and getting our fall show together.

                  This summer my school has been going through renovations, and we have not been allowed on campus since graduation. It has been really tough on me. I like to be in my room and theatre throughout the summer. So, I am having to think more about it at home. So, before school was out, I packed up several books, scripts, etc. into a large plastic tub and brought them home.

                  Throughout the summer, in between a theatre trip to New York, family vacation, and summer doctor appointments, I have read and made notes for the upcoming year. I usually try to make sure I know what my fall show is going to be first. Once I have that behind me, I start reading scripts in hopes of narrowing down my choices for One Act Play. Being in a small school, I usually know pretty much which kids I will have. I try to choose scripts to read that will help me toward the goal of casting for the best kids that I have. As I read scripts, I generally keep a notebook where I make notes, make sketches, etc. to try to help me when I have to make the final decision. All of these notes help me to make a really good pros and cons list in order to decide.

                  ONe thing I always try to do over the summer is give homework to my returning theatre students. I love to send my kids a Remind notification to update them on the homework they need to focus on. This summer I sent them a Remind message and guided them to this website to get all their homework information. I've locked the page with a code, but rest assured, the page is full of sheet music and links to examples of the shows and music we will be performing. If you can't tell, Squarespace has turned my teaching game around. I also include a couple of monologue choices for them to work on and be prepared to present the first week of school. This is the best way I've found to stay in touch with students over the summer. If a few new kids show up to the class, I can pass this on to them, but the rest will be ready to go on the first day of school. My kids know that we will be singing on the very first day of school in preparation for the musical. They will be presenting personal monologues and memorized pieces from the script by the second or third day. They must be ready.

                  I also like to spend at least one day of the summer at the bookstore looking for new things for prose and poetry. Of course on a year when the categories have changed, this is especially important. I generally go through the new releases and grab whatever looks interesting and head to the Starbucks section of the bookstore with a stack of books. I peruse them, put some back, get more, buy some and return some. This way, when school starts, I can hand off books to kids and let them start to mark things and I can do the same. I really try to get some things together early. It gets really scary when you come back from Christmas break and have OAP staring you in the face AND you have no prose and poetry pieces together. Work on this early.

                  I like to spend a little time in the summer preparing for the UIL season. I make sure to get the new Social Studies and Literary Criticism book lists in May and then get them purchased during the summer. Sometimes I am on top of things enough to get them before school is out so that kids and coaches can take them home for the summer, but sometimes not. If you are coaching either of those events, you would want to read them, take notes, make study sheets for your kids, etc. I usually spend a little time getting together an agenda for my first UIL meeting with my coaches during in-service. I like to meet with them, hand out a tentative schedule for the season, and just visit about upcoming UIL events, how to get more kids involved, etc. At this time, I also like to get a list from each coach consisting of the study materials and manuals they will need to get the year started. Then, as soon as our budget opens on September 1, I will order everything.

                  As head of the fine arts department at my school, I also need to spend some time in the summer preparing to meet with them during in-service. I like to explain to them, especially if there are new arts teachers, about how to turn in their lesson plans to me, how to make sure they are always current on entering their grades, etc. This is also a good time to check in with them and see what things they need for their own departments and see what I can do to make it happen. At our school, the department heads do walk-throughs in our department, so I will take this time to let them know what I am looking for, how I will make it happen and what I expect of their classes.

                  Even though I am not a lover of lesson plans, I realize that I need plans and they do help me produce consistently. I use some time during the summer to lay out some general plans. In the past, I would just try to lay out plans by the six weeks with notes and zoom in moments sketched throughout. Now, that I have my own website and my classes function through the website, it has changed for me. Now, it is all set up for me on the website. I can print the calendar for each class and turn that in as my lesson plans. Some schools are more particular about what is required within their lesson plans, but I am fortunate that my principal requires lesson plans, but leaves it up to each department to develop their way of writing them.

                  Spending just a little time during your summer vacation can make the start of your school year so much easier. While other teachers are running around trying to get things together during in-service days and writing lesson plans during in-service training, you can take a deep breath, relax, and know that you are way ahead of the game.