Teachers who use the end of the year to prepare for back to school can improve their time management and better balance out the school year.
I have always loved the end of the school year. Not because I’m going into summer, or I get to part ways with some difficult students, or even because we get to do some really fun end-of-year projects after testing has passed.
Although all of these are things that make the end of the year just a little sweeter, one of my favorite parts is starting to think about next year.
The end of the school year is really when I start considering what the next school year will look like. I am making plans, looking for new resources, and generally considering how I can hone my craft even more.
Reduce Back to School Stress
I have also found that the end of the school year tends to be a lot less stressful than back to school time (which makes total sense) because students are often engaged in bigger projects that allow me to spend less time presenting and actively teaching, and more time advising and guiding. Making this time of the year ideal for starting to prep for back to school.
I know…you’re probably thinking I’m crazy to suggest that the end of the year is the best time to be thinking about going back to school, but in all honesty, it is.
We always prep our units in advance.
We prep our lessons and units for January at the end of December even though our students may be taking a two-week break from school. We prep our units for after spring break before spring break ever happens. Preparing in advance is what we do, so why do we wait until the busiest time of our year to prepare our back to school materials?
While I’m still in the classroom at the end of the year, my mind is engaged in school and teaching and actively considering changes and improvements that I want to make for next year.
Unlike the summer months, during the last month of school, I have easy access to my supplies and bulletin boards, and I can take inventory of all of the tools, books, and resources available to me.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Many teachers will wait until summer or even early fall to plan for back to school, but I’ve always found that if I do that, things (that are usually outside of my control) get in the way. For example, I’ve had years when the school was closed during the summer while our custodial staff waxed the floors or painted hallways, or the back to school schedule is changed and we have less work time than previous years, or we adopt a new curriculum that requires a series of meetings and coaching sessions at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t planning on attending.
If we don’t use the end of the year to prepare for back to school, then we are wasting precious time in our classrooms with access to all of our normal materials…without the hassle of back to school schedules, meetings, and possible interferences.
We also have access to help at the end of the year, that we may not have later.
Using Student Help
We often forget that our students can help us with classroom and teaching tasks. They can help prep materials, organize manipulatives, create supply lists, test markers, design bulletin boards, and generally help out where we need them…and they like it!
It always amazes me how eager my students are to be helpful, and I know that I don’t ask them to help often enough.
At the end of the year, when I know that I have a to-do list for back-to-school that is a mile long, why not let the students who enjoy organizing spend some time pulling items from my shelves and creating an inventory? Why not let the super creative students’ design and prep bulletin board ideas for next year. Why not sit down with a group of students to discuss how to make the classroom better next year and implement some of their ideas. These are all learning experiences that hit on your students’ strengths, so LET THEM HELP!
And we have plenty of tasks they can help with!
End-of-Year Tasks to Prep for Back to School
#1 | Teacher reflections
I like to ask my students to do teacher reflections at the end of the year. You can see all the details in this previous post. Basically, our teacher reflection activity allows students to give the teacher feedback that can then be used to improve the class for next year.
At the end of the school year, you can conduct this activity, and make a list of changes you’d like to make.
If you use the end of the year to prepare for back to school, then you still have access to your students’ brains, which means that as you are looking through the student reflections, you can ask students to explain their feedback or brainstorm ways you can improve. Demonstrating this willingness to grow is a very positive experience for students to witness.
#2 | Plan, prep, and copy for the first 3 days
That first week of school can be overwhelming and exhausting as you get used to teaching a full day of school again, so spend some time at the end of the year picking resources and preparing lessons for the first 3 days of school.
Although issues always come up that are outside our control, there are certain topics we know we will cover sometime in those first couple of days. For example, I like to cover classroom procedures, do some math review centers, and maybe try our first close read within the first three days.
Make a list of the lessons and activities you typically cover or teach those first 3 days of school and get them all planned, prepped, and copied, so you are ready to go no matter what admin throws at you that first week back.
#3 | Prep your sub plans
Get some emergency sub plans put together.
At the beginning of the year, you always want to have some emergency sub plans ready to go just in case you need to be gone for any reason. Spend some time at the end of this year to get a couple of days worth of sub plans prepared.
Again, if you don’t do this now, it will be on your to do list at the beginning of the year, and we want to save that time for unexpected things or for implementing new ideas you learned about over the summer.
#4 | Make copies
If there are any resources, handouts, or task cards you know you’ll need for your first few units, go ahead and get those copies made now.
Clear out some space in your filing cabinets or in your closet specifically for these handouts, so that you don’t have to wait in line or que up a bunch of printing during back to school time.
You can also break this up into pieces. When you use the end of the year to prepare for back to school, you’re able to spread tasks out. If you have 5 weeks left of school, then pick 5 units you plan to teach next year, and make your copies for one unit each week.
#5 | Clean out your desk
Spend some time really cleaning out and organizing your desk and make a back-to-school box with stuff you know you’ll need during those first days back.
Get rid of or donate items that you’ve had for a while and haven’t used, and consider what you can do to organize your desk for next year.
Suggestion: If you have a bunch of similar items, consider putting together a little welcome basket for new teachers entering your department… especially if the new teacher is right out of college and doesn’t have any of their own supplies yet.
It may feel a little silly to spend so much time organizing your desk, but our teacher desks are often one of the few spaces in our classrooms that don’t get taken over by students, so spend some time considering how to make your desk a place that relaxes you rather than stressing you out.
#6 | Prep beginning of the year displays
Consider some of the displays you’ll be using next year. Start putting together and prepping your beginning of the year bulletin boards. Even if you don’t want to put them up yet, get some small baskets to put the prepped supplies in and leave them sitting somewhere you’ll be able to quickly find them and put them up when you get back to your room in the fall.
One of the benefits, when you use the end of the year to prepare for back to school, is that your students are still around to help you design and prepare these displays. You may be able to hand off the entire project to students who want to spend some of their free time designing and implementing a brand new bulletin board display for your future students.
#7 | Make a list of supplies
The end of the year is the best time to decide what supplies you’ll need for next year. From this list, you can create your teacher wish lists for next year or even ask your current students to recycle some of their supplies.
Make a list of what you need, and then put a box in your room for student donations. As students clean out their cubbies or bags, they can donate their leftover supplies to your future students. You can get some great folders, markers, and scissors that you can use later.
Strong Suggestion: When you use the end of the year to prepare for back to school, you can also take advantage of locker clean out at your secondary schools. If you have easy access to the middle school or high school, ask if you can put a supply donation box there somewhere. Middle and high school students get a lot of supplies for different subject areas and at the end of the year when they clean out their lockers, they often throw a bunch of stuff away. If your box happens to catch some of their leftovers, you will be amazed at what kinds of supplies you will get!
#8 Organize EVERYTHING
Take the time at the end of the year to organize everything.
Check your markers to make sure they work, get the pencil sharpener residue out of the bottoms of your baskets, clear off your shelves and dust and then consider the best way for reorganizing the supplies.
Spend some quality time creating an inventory of what you have so you can see if there is anything you haven’t been using.
We often hear that we should regularly clean out our clothes closets at home, but the same is true for our classroom. If you aren’t using some of the supplies or manipulatives in your room, either make a plan to use them, or donate them elsewhere.
The end of the year is a great time to spend some time editing the items in your room.
No matter what…
When you use the end of the year to prepare for back to school, you are able to get a jump start on your to-do list for the fall. Even if you only do one or two things on this list, you’ll still feel like you are ahead of the game and your back-to-school self will thank you!