ideas-upgrade-teaching-summer10 Ideas For Upgrading Your Teaching This Summer

by Nellie Mitchell, thislittleclassofmine

When my district tech office sent out an email the last week of school announcing that we would be getting new computers mid-summer, I was ecstatic.

The MacBook computers we’ve been packing around for the last five years are great machines, but I am ready for the upgrade. Anticipating the news that new computers might be on the horizon, I started organizing my computer two months ago.

Along with the announcement came a 7-page document outlining the steps and options to back up our lesson plans, files, and slide shows. Computing has changed a lot in the last five years. Now, instead of backing up our documents on CDs, as we did the last time we got new computers, we are encouraged to use the cloud. Save the files on Google Drive. Make a ‘keep’ folder full of ‘essentials’ only. The district will not be transferring large files, media files or photos. It is our responsibility to remove those things from our devices before the upgrade. (Glad I had a head start!)

I’ve been with the district for my entire 9.5-year career, and this will be the third computer they’ve provided for us in that time—-needless to say, I have a lot of files. Last year when I moved to a new classroom, I started throwing away photocopied ‘idea’ folders and packets, in favor of my pin boards and ‘flipboards’. I consolidated three filing cabinets down to one.  Most of the things I threw away already exist in a new-and-improved digital version.

Purging old files from my computer feels the same. My iPhoto was filled with thousands of photos and videos. My document file had documents that I created as a student teacher. It’s freeing to delete old documents, forms, and pictures that are backed up elsewhere. There is really no reason to save every single thing on a device. Most of that stuff was just unusable, irrelevant clutter.

It feels good to organize things that were saved haphazardly in random places into their new home in the cloud. It is funny to browse through the links that I bookmarked years ago and update my bookmark toolbar to only the necessary links.

Upgrading for me means a new computer, a clean, fresh start for next year. A true upgrade is a lot more than just rolling in some new shiny hardware. It’s about assessing what’s out there, removing the old outdated equipment and thinking, and investing in the future.

Upgrading means assessing the way you do things, evaluating the validity, and only saving the really good stuff. Upgrading means taking the time to clear out the clutter. It means pairing down the unnecessary junk into just the essentials. Upgrading is systematically sifting through the things that are right in front of you all the time, but are no longer relevant. It is about managing disorganized ideas and content. It is about updating and rebooting.

It means changing for the better.

It is nice to have a little time this summer to work towards the upgrade. During the regular school year, I don’t have multi-hour blocks of time to devote such a transformative project. The upgrade has forced me to think about other things in my teaching that deserve time an attention. What else needs an overhaul? Maybe you are already super organized. Maybe you just upgraded your computer.

  • A massive purge of ‘old clutter’?
  • A shiny new idea?
  • An evaluation of your old classroom management policies?
  • An entirely new system of collecting data?

We have put together a list of ideas to help you upgrade your teaching practices this summer. Obviously, travel, reading, relaxing and taking a break are critical during the summer, but implementing one of these suggested upgrades now, will be a good investment in the long run.

10 Teacher Upgrades For $10 Or Less

    1. Clean, purge and restore. Clean out filing cabinets. Clean off your computer. Save only the essentials. Back up your important documents in the cloud. Browse through links that were bookmarked years ago and update the bookmark toolbar with only the necessary links. Purge old worksheets and curriculum tools that don’t apply to your classroom anymore.  Cost: FREE.
    2. Manage your email. Delete irrelevant messages and go through the process to unsubscribe from mailing lists. Adopt an inbox zero philosophy to help you avoid the spam/junk/clutter all year long. Cost: FREE.
    3. Join a Twitter Chat. Fact.: 44% of users who are signed up for Twitter have never sent a single tweet!! Connect with sources that will strengthen your personal learning network. It will be a great investment in the future. Cost: FREE.
    4. Find an Ed Camp near you and sign up.  It is an incredible source of professional development and since it is summer, you won’t even need to create sub plans. You might just find that shiny new idea! Cost: FREE (and free food!)
    5. Gather a few teacher friends and do a book study. Meet up a couple of times this summer at the pool, for brunch, or for a teachers-night out to talk about the book. I suggest Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg or Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Cost: All three have a Kindle edition under $10.
    6. Take a class in something you are admittedly not good at, in order to understand the perspective of struggling learners. Seriously. A few hours in a dance or sewing class and you might be ready to quit. The process will be good for you and it will give you some insight into the frustration your students have. It will also give you a chance to observe a teacher in a different content area and setting, which could potentially transform your own practices. Cost: Price varies.
    7. Print those school photos. Okay, this suggestion might be creating a little more physical clutter, but having tangible evidence of student projects, collaboration, and fun times in the classroom are a great investment in the future. Print them off, hang them up, share them with colleagues and use them in your classroom displays next year, or for parent conferences. If you never print them, look at them or share them, why bother backing them up and transferring them from device to device. Use it or lose it. Cost: Varies. Online printing services run deals for 99 prints for $0.99.
    8. Develop a community service project and a plan to implement it next year. Figure out how to use your existing curriculum to make the world a better place. Find inspiration in a local, real-world problem. Do the legwork now and introduce it when student engagement is floundering. A dual investment in the future. Cost: Free.
    9. Spend time reflecting and evaluating why/how you do things. You could finally start that blog. (My absolute favorite source for encouragement and reflection are sitting in a folder in my email inbox. I get a weekly article from SmartClassroomManagement.com but I don’t always have mental fortitude to digest the information during the school year. This summer, I plan to spend a little time with the articles that resonate with me so that I can update my classroom management plan.) Cost: Free.
    10. Download a classroom library app. Spend some time organizing your books. Cost: varies, most are free.

 

What could you do this summer to upgrade your teaching? What could you do to change your teaching practices for the better? Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips for teacher upgrades!

image attribution pixabay