10 Life Hacks for Getting Ready for a New School Year


Whether you agree with Summer breaks in Education or not, almost all teachers get them and most teachers enjoy them (despite the minor harassment we get from our friends in other professions). But all good things must come to an end and starting the school year after a Summer full of beach trips, pool parties, and all day Netflix binge watching (not me, but a friend of mine…) can be hard if we lack the mental preparation it requires to get back into the swing of things.

Here is a list of 10 things you can do during your Summer holiday to really hit the ground running when the morning bell rings on day one.

Watch these Inspiring movies and take a few notes.

Most of us have seen the feel good movies about teachers but how many of us take the lessons from them and actually try to make them, to some degree, a reality? Here is a list of three movies I suggest you watch and take a few notes during. See if you can find a way to implement one thing you like about the showcased educator into your routine.

Ron Clark Story, Freedom Writers Diary, Dangerous Minds and my favorite Dead Poets Society.

Do you have a favorite – tell me yours on twitter using #infusedclassroom – I would love to add to my list!

Read, “Most Likely to Succeed” by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

Watch the Trailer to their documentary

Read the Book

While a plethora of great books about education exist today, I suggest this one specific book for a particular reason: we must totally upend public and private educational systems and redesign why we send our kids to school. Test-makers and the tests they create still run the show but in the age of, “Let me Google The For You” we are no longer preparing children for factory jobs and basic citizenship. Don’t get me wrong, we still need those two things but we can no longer afford to stop short of providing an education to kids that meets the needs of our 21st century economy.

Make a list of three new things you want to try this year and share it.

Here is the idea, we all work better when we have someone to bounce our ideas off of. So find a teacher friend and make a date for coffee – call it a mini CoffeeEdu. Sit down and follow this thinking template.

  1. Write down and discuss three things that went great for you in your practice this past year. (Take some notes about what you said and feedback from your partner)
  2. Write down and discuss three things you think didn’t go so great in your teaching practice this past year. (Again, take notes)
  3. Based on number 1 and 2, write down and discuss three things you are going to change next year to improve. (notes!!)
  4. Write down and discuss 1 (min) to 3 (max) separate S.M.A.R.T. goals for achieving the changes you discussed making. You must include with dates they should be completed! If you need a refresher on SMART goals check out this post.
  5. Use Boomerang to set up (pre-send) a few emails to your friend (and yourself) reminding them of the goals they set and the due dates they set for them. That’s right, you’re going to schedule an email to send a week, a month, or a quarter before the goal is due so that your friend is held accountable by YOU.

Get on Twitter OR refine your current Twitter practice

By now, most teachers who have been to an educational conference in the past 5 years know about the power of using Twitter as an educational tool. If you don’t already have a Twitter account go make one and then read this post to start following some great users who focus on Education. If you already have a Twitter account use some time this holiday to clean up your feed. That means go down your feed and start muting the people (or words) who aren’t enriching your Twitter experience (heck, unfollow them if you want!). Next, you can start making some lists and organizing users into groups so that you can filter out the noise and optimize your Twitter time during the school year. Last, go to some Twitter chats and build your PLN and your notes for next year.

Watch 3 Ted Talks that inspire you and then…

We all know about TED Talks and how amazing they can be, but after you watch them the buzz they give you can fizzle pretty fast. Here are three ideas for taking a TED Talk out of fantasy land and into reality.

  1. Find a great Twitter Chat and suggest the TED Talk as a chat topic.
  2. Blog/journal about each talk and ask for feedback from your PLN.
  3. Use the TED Talks in your meeting with a friend from idea #3 from above.

Take a free online course

There are an amazing number of free learning resources online. Here are but a few of them.

  1. Adobe EdX
  2. Coursera
  3. Code Academy
  4. EdTechTeam Online

Find a good podcast to listen to on your commute to work

Again, podcasts are free, inspiring, and are constantly being updated. I suggest finding some that are no more than 20 minutes long, are updated at least twice a month, and leave you feeling optimistic. Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. The Press Release
  2. Cult of Pedagogy
  3. Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell – the ones on our schools systems are mind blowing

Send every student a note before the start of school

That’s right! Give them a little work to do before they start your class or something to do day 1. I used to do this: write them a note saying that I was excited to see them and ask them to reply with 10 things I should know about them as a learner and a person. Then I would hand write each student a note back – so they knew I heard them.

Start a healthy lifestyle routine that matches your school schedule

We all want to be healthy and full of energy and teaching can be very draining and hard on the body. That’s why you need a routine and process to take care of yourself! Plus, how can you take care of the little angles in your room if you aren’t taking care of yourself?! Here are three ideas for starting a healthy routine BEFORE school starts.

  1. Start packing your healthy lunch the day or night before. Yeah that’s right, pack a lunch even when you don’t need to. This will help develop the routine of preparing it during the year.
  2. Improve your sleep hygiene. It’s impossible to ignore the health benefits of a getting a full 8 (or more) hours of sleep. Many of us use fitbits and other apps and devices to track how good our sleep was. But what are we doing to PREPARE for sleep and correct the nights of bad sleep? Try to answer yes to these three questions: do you own blackout curtains? Do you forbid backlit screens in the bedroom or end screen time at least 15 minutes before sleep time? Do you sleep in a cold room (less than 65 degrees F)?
  3. EAT BREAKFAST Now and each school day!  It can be so hard for me to get up early AND start eating and I often skip breakfast and replace it with coffee. Never a good idea! Not eating a little protein in the morning can have really terrible consequences during the day like crashing hard after lunch or spicy mood swings. One trick to help you wake up ready to eat, have a healthy evening snack. Yep, eating a little snack before bed can keep your metabolism running at night so when you wake up you’re hungry. My favorites are a night time protein shake or a small handful of nuts with a little (¼ cup when measured raw) cooked oatmeal.

Give Yourself 5 Minutes of Day of Quiet. Relax – but for real

That’s right. The most important thing you can do to prepare for the start of the new year is to really and truly relax! That means take naps, read books you WANT to read, and spend time with friends and loved ones. Other ideas include: downloading a free app and trying some breathing meditation, going a full day without your phone (or other connected device), and simply making time for #1 (that’s you by the way, you’re #1). Better yet…find a comfortable spot. Close your eyes and breathe. This one practice will change everything!

What are some ways you get ready for your school year? I would love to hear your thoughts! Find me Twitter @HollyClarkEDU and let me know what you do to get ready for a new school year!

Author: HollyClark

Holly is the co-author of Google Infused Classroom. She lives and works in San Diego, California. She delivers professional development to schools internationally and speaks at conferences about empowering teachers and students with iPads and Google Apps for Education. Contact her at holly@edtechteam.com to have her present or work with your school.

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