Gearing up for a new school year

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Okay, it’s time. This morning I was at the newly opened Tin Roof cafe, finishing up a book about writing with middle school students that I am reviewing for the National Writing Project (How Writers Grow by Cynthia Carbone Ward). As I read, I was prompted to begin making a to-do list (on a napkin, of course, never mind that I had my journal out on the table) of things I plan to do and change this year. I’ve had my first year as a middle school teacher, and now I have a few ideas about it all. You readers who know me, know I would never just accept a distressing scenario such as I experienced last year without arriving at a decision to change it before it begins again.

Here are the things I wrote on the napkin:
* A list of art supplies. I am going to be keeping them in tennis ball cans this year. Not so revolutionary, but new to me. Do I keep one can per kid (100+), or twenty cans for the whole room or one can per kid in a section (30 or so)? Do I put all the supplies we are likely to use in one can, or only one genre at a time of supplies in each can? Like colored pencils in one, markers in another, highlighters in others? How will I keep track of what’s supposed to be in each can? Assign a can monitor to count supplies? I tried plastic boxes last year and the good stuff in them – e.g. the cute heart shaped erasers – disappeared in about a day. If you are a regular reader you may remember the propensity of my students to steal my stuff, and my distress when they do, so all this is of great importance to me. Hmmm, could I be overthinking it? How do other teachers use their tennis ball cans? I have a ton of them, and want to get it right before I give away the extras.
* Some schedule stuff:
Friday, silent reading; AM Silent writing with music (should I take my CD playing stereo system to my classroom this year? Look at yard sales or thrift shops for genres of music I don’t have?); Friday writing assessment with other teachers (as if any of them want to hear any ideas I may have about writing or assessing it.), daily writing in little composition books; what else?
* Policy about rewrites:
How long will they have to rewrite? Depends on if I actually assign any writing. Will I make a schedule for using the computer lab so I get typed copies of essays? Should I buy half a dozen jump drives to save them on? Saving at the end of the period takes so long. What about an assessment rubric that I can share with the students before they write? Could I design one now so I have it ready, and then tweak it for each assignment?

Oh, I’m already tired. And feeling a little desperate because I know I have so much to do before school starts. So little time. And so much more to think about. I still have that damn pacing guide to go through and decide what I HAVE to teach and what I can let slide. And I have to (get to!!) move all the ELD Facilitator stuff out of my classroom into the new ELD office. Hallelujah to that! But it is 105 degrees and once again I’ll be doing that by myself. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’ll be out of my classroom and into its own space, as it should be. It’s okay. But I”m already sweating, just thinking about it. I think I should just settle down and read a trashy novel on the treadmill. Then I can start thinking again. And if you have any experience or ideas about the tennis ball cans, please leave a comment. Also if you need any. Cause I have a lot. Hundreds, I think. Oh, and if you have any urge to move a bunch of stuff across a blistering asphalt playground let me know that, too. I’ll definitely be in touch.
Have a good day. Keep cool.

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One thought on “Gearing up for a new school year

  1. stuckinmypedals says:

    Hi, Lynn,
    I use tennis ball cans to hold markers and colored pencils. The thing to know about markers and highlighters is that if they’re the fat ones, the cans won’t hold a ton of them. Another thing to know is that the lids tend to give out before the cans, so hang onto lids as they come your way. I’ve always kept the supplies separate with the little ones, but I’ve seen upper grades where they mix the supplies so that the can functions more like a complete art caddy.

    Also, I think if you’re going to do reading with quiet music, you should ask students if they have any music they’d like to share. Obviously, you’d want to listen to it first, but I’ve loved the results in my classroom. I get to know my students a little better and they get to share something they like with the class.

    Have a great time making your classroom your own and starting a fresh year!

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