I’m going to give you three things to do before the school year ends in today’s episode. But the third one is a game-changer.

They are:

  1. Declutter your space, files, and equipment
  2. Evaluate your current systems and routines
  3. Map out all of your next year’s courses to the unit level

But first, a story that you’ll relate to.

I left a job working as an art consultant for an interior design firm to be a teacher. 

It was my first non-internship job as an interior designer. The job seemed glamorous. Go to mixers and networking events a couple of nights of the week. Make connections and get referrals. Pick out art for the office space or hotel they were working on. And then start over again.

I was single, but planning on one day being married and having a family. The schedule didn’t bother me at the time until I was talking one day to one of the senior designers. 

Turns out, she was a single mother and had a young son. Besides the weeknight networking events, she traveled to Idaho twice a month to work with other clients.

I remember thinking, “If I stay in design, will I get to see my kids?”

It wasn’t long after that I decided to return to school to teach drafting. For the lifestyle, the school hours, the weekends, and the breaks. I did it for the summers off.

When we started teaching, Jared and I would joke that we don’t “actually” have the summers off. With new courses and preps being added to our schedules, it seemed like we were always spending the summer planning for the next school year.

That was okay–until we had kids. 

Now, we want to have experiences with our kiddos. We want to travel. Go to swimming lessons. Go to the park. 

And we want to do that guilt-free. What about you? 

Are you ready to do some simple things now (while school is still in session) that will allow you to enjoy your kids more?

Before the School Year Ends, Take Time to Declutter

Check out this previous post all about organizing your classroom and spaces for 4th term. 

But, to have a guilt-free summer, you are going to not only organize but all get rid of some things.

Unpopular opinion: If you’re not going to be teaching a course next year, you don’t need to save all the resources.

“But what if I’m going to teach it 5 years from now?”

Then have a digital copy. There’s no reason to keep years and years of outdated teaching resources “just in case.”

Your state standards might change before then. You may attend a conference and get an even better idea of how to teach a concept. Technology will most definitely change, and you may be delivering the content differently.

So, take a picture, scan the copy. (There are some awesome scanning apps.) And get to filling up your trash can. 

Check Up On Your Systems and Routines Before the School Year Ends

It’s best to reflect on your systems and routines during the school year rather than in the summer. Or right before the school year starts.

You can get started on this today.

At the end of each class period or day, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What were the students able to do without my prompting?
  2. Were there any questions that students kept asking all day?
  3. What behaviors are driving me nuts?

At this point of the school year, you and your students are comfortable with each other. You’ve most likely gotten lax on some of your expectations because you’re students are working on projects.

This is also the time when you may not be as empathetic towards your students. 

At the beginning of the year, you’re in the honeymoon period and you’re patient with them. You’re okay with reminding them where the tape measures are stored, how to clean up their kitchens, and how to submit an assignment.

Before the school year ends, your patience starts to wear thin. 

Taking a step back to observe your systems will allow you to “blame the process, not the person”. 

Note what you would like to keep for next year and what you would like to change. By doing this now, you won’t need to reinvent the wheel come August. Just pull up your notes and add teaching your systems and routines into your daily lesson plans.

Map Out All Your Courses to the Unit Before the School Year Ends

This final tip for what you can do now, before the school year ends is a game-changer.

I’ve taught a lot of different preps in my day. (At one point I was teaching 9 preps over 8 periods.) Not a single one of those courses came with a usable calendared map. 

One where it had the units listed and how many days should be spent on each unit. Even when I was teaching a purchased nation-wide curriculum, the content map didn’t line up with our school calendar.

Plus, they had based all the amount of time needed per unit based on how many slideshow presentations we were “supposed” to show. Not how long it took to actually teach students.

Having all your courses planned out to the unit and calendared is going to not only allow you to enjoy your summer guilt-free. But, it’s also going to save you time when school starts. 

You can compare all your course maps to make sure to offset the beginning and end of your units. That will prevent you from having a lot of grading to do on the same day or needing to prep many units at once.

Like any good map, you’ll know where you’re starting, what stops you’ll be making, and how long it will take to get there.

Just like when you take your kiddos on a road trip and you know exactly which gas station bathrooms are the cleanest and how many minutes it will take to get to the next one.

I’ve applied my “4S” Approach to planning out your courses. We’re going to go over those first two steps here, but if you would like to get all the steps laid out, grab the Plan Out Your Course Cheat Sheet here.

The first “S” is “Set in Order”

Here you’ll need to figure out what units you’re going to be wanting. There is no right or wrong for this one. You can create a unit per standard or you can group them together.

Hot tip: if you have no standards for a new-to-you-course you will be teaching next year. Check out other state’s websites. Try Googling: California CTE Standards, etc.

The next “S” is “Schedule”

For this step, you’ll want to get your school or district calendar so you can figure out how many “teachable days” are available during the year and each of your terms, semesters, or trimesters.

This last part of “Schedule” is going to be key–and what you usually won’t be able to find anywhere. It’s determining how long you should be teaching each unit. 

If you’ve already taught a course, you may know how long it will take to teach, but unless you made a note somewhere, you probably have no clue.

So, how do you figure out how long to teach each unit? Especially for a new course?

The key is by working backward. Backward from the end-of-level assessment. Not one your neighboring teacher-friend wrote (even though I’m sure it’s great). No, we’re talking a certification assessment.

You are specifically looking for one with the breakdown of points or questions per strand or standard.

Once you figure that out, you can take the number of points per standard and divide that by the total points.

For example, if the total points are 56 and the standard that you’re using for your first unit adds up to ten. Ten divided by 56 is 0.1785 or about 18% of your course. If this is a semester course with 85 days. Then, you should block out 15 days to teach the unit. 

“That’s good and all, but what if my course doesn’t have an end-of-level assessment?”

Borrow my secret ninja trick. Other states may have this as well, but Utah gives end-of-level skills assessments for the majority of CTE courses. Go to the website, find a course that sounds like the one you are teaching. And scroll all the way to the bottom. 

Look for, “Skills Certificate Test Points By Strand”. And, voila!

Hint: When you sign up to get the Plan Out Your Course Cheat Sheet, I’ll send you an email with a video on how to find these.

In Summary

You deserve a stress and guilt-free summer. Look forward to spending that time with your littles because you’ll be prepared.

You can do the following before the school year ends. Decluttering and getting rid of any teaching materials for courses you won’t be teaching next year. (Yes, it’s okay to create digital files). 

Check to see and note what is working and what isn’t working with your current systems and routines. 

And finally, put together course maps for each of your classes by figuring out your units and how many days to spend on each. Double-check by comparing your different classes to one another to avoid conflicting start and end dates.

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