Guest Post: You finished the first semester! Now what?

Today, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Lisa from the blog La Maestra McH. On her blog, she has a ton of engaging activities that are ready to go. She wants to support and inspire teachers. I love how she explains what works and what didn’t work. (For example, this post on Pecha Kucha!) Lisa also has some innovative ideas on Flipgrid as well. (I already mentioned this charades post earlier, but she also wrote a post explaining the new features of picture dictionary and immersive reader and how to use them in class.) She has also shared some great stories to use in class. So once you hear from her here, pop over to her blog to read more! Thanks so much for sharing on my blog, Lisa!

Congratulations! You made it through the first semester of the year! Now what? Whether you’re a first-year or veteran teacher, preparing for a new semester can feel daunting. 

  1. Rest

My teacher mind is constantly brainstorming, assessing, and creating. In fact, when I took a year off from teaching, it took me months to switch out of teaching mode. One night I realized I was just watching TV; not stressing about lesson plans or grading, but simply watching TV.  Take time off. I’ll say it again, TAKE TIME AWAY FROM YOUR CLASSES. Intentionally focus on self-care. I’m not joking. Schedule time into your days that is just for you. If you’re like me, if you aren’t intentional about it, you’ll find an excuse not to do it. Self-care for you may be the stereotypical spa day, or it may look like gym time, baking, reading, sleeping, cleaning. Whatever makes YOU feel peaceful, do that.  You deserve it (read that again: You deserve it.) and your mind will have a chance to rest and come back refreshed, ready to take on the next semester.

  1. Reflect on what went well

Some years start well and others, not so much. No matter how last semester went, there are things you did well. You have strengths & had successes.  What are they? Set aside 15 minutes or so and think back on the semester. Do you have an organized system to get information to absent students? Do you have great visual components that aid understanding? Is relationship building a strength? Are you great at getting kids up and moving? Make a list (no really, write it down) and then plan how to carry those strengths into the next semester. Looking over what you do well, can really bolster confidence and turn around your perception if you think the semester was a total waste and you accomplished nothing (definitely not speaking from personal experience here…).

  1. Reflect on what you have to learn

Note: this isn’t, what you did poorly or what you suck at. This is the time to acknowledge there are areas where you can improve.  I’ve been teaching since 2011 and every year I find areas in which to grow. Again, set aside some time and make a list of areas you’d like to improve on.  Not “I suck at classroom management” or “My class is out of control” but rather “I need to research ways to establish and maintain consistent routines”. Instead of, “My online learning management system is a hot mess” but rather “How can I organize my files to better serve my students and myself”.  Then draw a line and think of actionable steps you can take to learn and grow.  

Finally, you can’t do it all. Look at the list and prioritize it.  Which action will most serve you second semester (even if it’s the most challenging/intimidating). 

Pick one or two things to work on. Leave the list for a day or two and revisit it. Do you still feel the same? Change it or act on it.  Don’t burn yourself out trying to learn all the things. Set a timer for 30 minutes and dig in to your action steps.

  1. Give yourself grace

This year I’m making some major shifts towards proficiency-based grading and instruction.  I’m a perfectionist & want to do it right immediately. Guess what, I made mistakes. My proficiency for proficiency-based teaching is novice. I have room to grow. I am constantly telling my students that it’s ok not to be perfect and that the goal is to grow in proficiency.  I should look in the mirror next time I say that. I bet you cheer your students on all the time and highlight what they’ve done well. You’d never tell them they are stupid or doing a terrible job. If you wouldn’t say it to your students, don’t say it to yourself. 

Seriously, reframe those negative thoughts. What would you say to a friend or a student that holds herself to unrealistic standards and then berates herself  for failing to achieve perfection? If you want to take it a step further, write down those reframed thoughts and post them where you can see them on your desk, bathroom mirror, phone background, or any place you’ll see them often.  The more you practice giving yourself grace, the easier it will be to do so.

  1. Start fresh

The second semester is a chance for a fresh start for you AND your students.  That student that loves to push your buttons, give her a fresh start. That topic/prep you struggled through last semester & are dreading? It’s a chance to do it differently. Let it be different and better.

Also, let go of what doesn’t add value to your teaching. Let’s talk about physical clutter (who doesn’t love a good junk purge?). Set aside 5 minutes to go through a binder of resources or a closet shelf in your room. Have you used the item recently? Will you use it this semester? Keep it! Or does the item make you cringe because you’ve grown and changed so much since you last used it? Get rid of anything that doesn’t add value to what you do and who you are.  This applies to non-tangible things too like your habit of complaining about students or scrolling Instagram and feeling like you have an ugly, under-decorated classroom. Do either of those things add value to your life? Probably not. Ditch the bad habits & replace them with something more valuable like writing positive emails to parents/students or reading a professional development book or learning new strategies from teacher blogs you trust. 

Want to make the changes stick? Tell a friend or trusted colleague & ask them to check in with you weekly to see how you’re doing with the fresh start! In college, the thought of disappointing my roommate & workout buddy Brandy (hey girl hey!) was the ONLY thing that got me out of bed in the morning and to the gym. Accountability works.

No matter how your first semester went, the second semester can be even better! Rest, reflect, give grace, and face the coming semester ready to start anew. 

How do you prepare for the second semester? Leave a tip below or reach out to me on Twitter (@lisajmch) or Instagram (@lamaestramch).  I’d love to connect!

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