I carried a crate out of my classroom yesterday. Filled with a few gifts, 113 projects, and a book, I knew what I needed to bring home. I am ready for the break and so are my students. We have worked hard. And yet, in typical teacher fashion I couldn’t help but think of January 5th, a new year, tired students, and all the great things we get to do. As I glanced around I knew these next few weeks were my chance to re-energize the classroom, signaling to the students that 2015 would be a year of wonderful learning. So what can we do to get great energy flowing again in our classrooms? Well, there are a few simple things…
- Clean out all the clutter. Much like a house a classroom starts to collect things in nooks and crannies. So I am taking one day to go in and get rid of the clutter. Start fresh with clean surfaces, wipe everything down, and reorganize the essentials. The students may not notice it, but the energy changes.
- Pay special attention to your own area. I have a few tables that I use for papers, binders, and other things I need to teach. They look fine but could really use a good going through. So every paper will be filed, every drawer will be cleaned. It is so nice to come back to order.
- Switch out all of your (book) displays. Whatever you have on display in the classroom, change it out. I always see the students perk up when they notice the new displays. I treat my classroom like a mini-library and thus have a lot of books displayed throughout, these are the way my room is “decorated.” I cannot tell you the excitement kids have when they see new ones displayed. It doesn’t even have to be new books, I often showcase favorites that students seem to be missing in their browsing. A physical change in the scenery can inject quite a lot of excitement for a new year.
- Find one great new idea. I love starting the new year with a great new idea. So pledge to try something different, doesn’t have to be a big thing; find a way to incorporate a technology tool you already use in a new way, change a project, or try something completely new. Whatever it is, promise to infuse your teaching with at least one new thing to try, and remember; it can be something small.
- Be inspired. Whether you read a great book, listen to an amazing conversation, watch a video, speak to someone who gets you thinking – find a moment for you soul to get re-energized. I have my stack of books and podcasts lined up ready for me after Christmas and lunch with a few friends. Break is also about re-finding our purpose, lighting our own fires and being the head bringer of excitement. If we are not entusiastic to go back to teaching, our students wont be either.
- I know, the title said 5, but here is my bonus idea and probably the most important: Turn it off. We are educators 100% of the time but it is okay to turn it off over break. You don’t have to go in every day. You don’t have to plan for days. We see our students need a break but forget that we do too. Yes, I have things to do to prepare but I also have cookies to make, songs to sing, books to read and relaxing to do. You cannot get re-energized if you don’t take a step away. So allow yourself a break, even from your own thoughts, you will come back stronger because of it.
What ideas do you have?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.