Five Teacher Tips for New Year Success

New Year Success: Reflecting

Happy New Year!! I know you are very excited to get back into the classroom following the holiday break, summer vacation, etc. Most of the time I am reenergized, excited, ready to try new ideas and a fresh start. However, I remember when this happy teacher was NOT me.

Happy New Year, New School Year, New Semester, New Quarter

I remember when I was frustrated about specific challenges that were carried over from the prior semester or year. I had no answer then, what am I going to do now? Although there were 33 students in my class, I had 4 students who knew exactly which string to pull drained my energy everyday. You know what I mean. I’d think about those students that were just not motivated to learn, but I had to be the one to change their attitude. Which tool did I have in my toolbox to help these kiddos?

I remember the feelings of being behind in grading and knew I was NOT going to let this happen to me again . . . especially since I was caught up ~ today is a new grading period ~ day 1. I also remember the feeling of having so much to do and not enough time to do it. From planning engaging units, researching strategies to help specific students, and the professional development that I knew I needed, I was already exhausted. Yes, I was a teacher who struggled, had a plate filled ten feet high, and was trying to make ends meet in and out of the classroom. Do you have any of these same challenges? Is this you?

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New Year Success: From Struggle to Success

Well, my friend, after several years of feeling less than an amazing teacher, I asked enough questions, sought out enough professional learning, tried and failed until success was consistent. I discovered specific keys, components, tips, whatever you want to call it, that I needed to implement consistently to be a successful teacher. It didn’t matter if I was starting a new school year, quarter, semester, coming back after a vacation, break, or personal vacation . . . what I learned, I am going to share with you.

reflect on teaching quote

Once I figured out what I need to do, I experienced pure pleasure and excitement going back to school. I had an “I can” attitude, smiled, knew exactly how to juggle “life”, student needs, and teacher demands. Soon I found myself helping other teachers and even had time to really engage in professional development which is when I sought National Board Certification, a master degree, and a doctorate degree. When I think about where I was in my early days and where I am now, I can totally relate to the “teacher struggle”. I was there for several years and am excited to share what I learned with you!

My mission is to support teachers and homeschooling parents shorten the instructional learning curve, overcome instructional and behavior challenges, and engage and motivate students for optimal learning and achievement. My mission is to provide support and resources so YOU can be more successful and be that AMAZING Blue Ribbon Teacher that you are!!

New Year Success: Let’s Get Real

I want to be real with you. Yes, I struggled, cried, and was looking for another career. However, I was fortunate to have a mentor work with me in my early years. She helped me overcome the challenges I had, saw what I did that was great, and helped me reflect and figure out how I can do things different to be successful. If it wasn’t for my mentor, I would most likely have left the profession. However, I am grateful for my struggle, as it made me the teacher I am today.

New Year Success: 5 Tips

Starting a new year with a positive mindset is essential. Although I am sharing two free resources below, I do want to take a moment and share a few additional tips specific to returning to school following a midyear break.

1. Take some time to reflect on the prior semester. This step is paramount! Think about what went well, what needs to be tweaked, and what needs to be thrown out the window. Yes, you heard me. We need to celebrate is supporting student learning and achievement and areas that are almost perfect. On the other hand, sometimes we just need to get rid of or revamp “things”, so we have a better experience the second time around. Remember, teaching is not a cookie cutter profession. What works with one group of students could be a total flop with another group. Consistent reflection is a key for success.

2. Review semester 2 curriculum map. Yes, there are 180 days in a school year and the last 40-50 days focus on state and district assessments. Therefore, check your curriculum map and see where you are in delivery? Are you ahead? Behind? What standards need additional focus or time for students to learn? I always create my curriculum map to allow completion by mid March. This strategy allows me about four weeks to help students solidify any skills needed with extra support before testing. It’s difficult for students to do well when they have not been taught the concepts.

3. Give students a “planned opportunity” to share and discuss their holiday break. Students love to reconnect with their classmates upon returning from a break. Give them permission and time while focusing on learning. This sharing can be done in a class meeting to start the day (whole group), table teams (small group), journal entry (individual), or on Flip Grid (incorporating technology). These are great opportunities to work on speaking and listening skills.

Additionally, something I like to do is use a picture book where students connect and write. For example, after summer break, I read Mark Teague’s, How I Spent My Summer Vacation. This book can be an easy springboard for

writing after winter break. Read the same book, but students write about “How I Spent My Winter Vacation”. It is fun to display the writing pieces in the hallway for community learners or make a class book that can be shared at conferences, in the school library, read to learning buddies, or school’s reception area for guests. This is a great way to embed reading and writing standards while giving students an opportunity to share about their vacation memories.

4. Review, tweak, and practice those classroom expectations, rules, and procedures. Yes, when starting a new school year, these items are generally generated together (teacher and student) in a student centered classroom, perhaps a class building contract is established to invite students to “be part of the classroom culture”, and other traditions are established. At the beginning of the year, we spend time modeling, reviewing, teaching, reteaching, and practicing expectations, rules, and procedures until students are able to operate in a cohesive manner in the classroom. The work you did at the beginning of the school year needs to be REVIEWED after every break, and sometimes, once a month. Trust me!! No matter how brilliant the students are before the break, students seem to forget EVERYTHING over the break. Never assume students remember how to operate in your classroom after a break. They DON’T. It’s time to reteach and practice. Don’t skip out on this. You’ll be glad you took this time to review.

One of the most important keys to student success facilitated through this tip is “relationship building”! Students need to feel connected to a larger group, people at school (you, other teachers and staff members), and friends. Building relationships is probably the most important key for student success!

5. Finally, engage students in goal setting. While this can be done at the beginning of the school year, unit, quarter, or anytime . . . taking time at the beginning of semester two is a great way for students to think about what they have learned, how much they have learned, and what they need to still accomplish. Engaging students in self-reflection on learning is an important step to motivating students to be independent learners who seek information, ask questions, and develop purpose from their education.

New Year Success: Free Resources

Besides the tips I shared above, I am including some free resources! Each resource focuses on tips and strategies to enjoying a successful year with more clarity and less stress.

It doesn’t matter when you are starting a “new year”. A “new year” begins after there has been an extended break from the classroom. Students return, but often forget how to be a student in your classroom. Therefore, it is very important to take some time to refresh their memory.

My goal in this resource is to share my top 10 essentials for planning a successful new school year that saves you time and leads to a stress free and successful year, one that will leave you feeling energized, enthusiastic, and ecstatic!

Reflecting on a School Year

When we plan units of instruction, we always start with the end in mind. Teaching is no different. We know where we need the students to be, what they need to learn, and how to get them there. However, just that knowledge is only half the work. The other half comes in our own reflection about what we have done and thinking about what we need to do to make the instruction sequences more solid, better meet learners’ needs, and excel achievement. With careful self reflection, each educator can achieve great success. Find out how to do this in my free resource.

My goal in this resource is to allow educators time to sit in a quiet space, ponder questions, reflect upon the personal responses, and develop a plan to move forward. When these steps are taken, the educator will experience professional growth that will impact their work and the learners that are guided be their professional self-reflection.

New Year Success: Personal Professional Development

Now that we have your students taken care of . . . what about you? Something that we can often overlook when engaging in reflecting on and prepping for a new year, semester, or quarter is our own professional growth. Based upon the prior year or semester, what is an area that you identify as an area of growth? Is this something related to classroom management? Content? Instructional strategies? Struggling learners? What area needs additional support?

I want to take this opportunity to tell you about my Blue Ribbon Teacher Academy. In my online teacher academy, you’ll find courses that focus on developing your professional skills to the next level and beyond. I have found that most educators get the basic education in their undergrad schooling, then have a classroom of students where the real learning takes place. Unfortunately, even though we’ve had some good, quality education and experiences, this does not fully prepare a teacher for the classroom. Therefore, in my teacher academy, I have designed self guided courses, course and coaching courses, and just coaching to support teachers with “on demand professional development”.

Each of my courses provides research based, valuable information in bite-sized pieces, so you can put into practice what you are learning. My doctorate degree is an Ed. D. which aligns with my practitioner passion, knowledge, and experiences. Therefore, in each of my courses, you also have the option to connect with me throughout the course and implementation phases to get your questions answered, overcome any challenges, and continue to build your professional skills and strategies. My courses are not a “read, feed, and leave alone” cycle. My courses provide real in-depth instruction using andragogical methods for adult learners who are developing their education pedagogical content knowledge and instructional strategies.

New Year Success: Related Resources

Getting back into the teaching saddle can be a struggle for some educators. Check out these resources for additional support and ideas.

Blue Ribbon Teacher Academy

First Week of School

Start a New Year with Success

New Year Success: Final Thoughts

There you go!! Everything you need to start a successful journey back into the classroom!! Whether you are starting a brand new year, new semester with a new group of students or the same class, you’ll find the tips and resources I shared will make a huge difference in the work you do on a daily basis. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Remember to connect and follow with me on social media, leave a comment, and subscribe to my YouTube channel, Blue Ribbon Teacher TV. I look forward to working with you!

Have a blessed day!!

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Annette Durbin

Annette has been an educator for more than 30 years working in the PK-6 elementary classroom, K-12 multi-language learner instructional specialist, district leadership, university professor, as well as a mentor for teachers nationwide. A National Board Certificated Teacher, Annette focuses her research on accelerating learning and advancing achievement, personalizing instruction, technology, and leadership in the education field.

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