5 Tips to Get Off to a Great Start & Avoid Back-to-School Burnout

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Back-to-school is an exhilarating time full of hope and excitement for a new school year for teachers and students alike.  But, those first few weeks are also exhausting!  Check out the tips below to be sure to start the year off right to keep yourself sane and avoid burnout.

Tip #1 – Start Off Organized

Nothing is worse than not being able to find what you need.  Knowing where things are stored so they can be easily found is essential.  By using OneNote, teachers can easily have lesson plans, class documents and presentations, emails, parent contact information and more at their fingertips.  Inserting text, images, files, audio & video is easy with just a few clicks and the OneNote Clipper allows you to seamlessly clip items directly from your Internet browser into OneNote.  And with OneNote’s amazing search functions, information can be found quickly and easily.

Tip #2 – Get Rest & Hydrate

The beginning of the school year is always a hectic time for everyone and sometimes the best-laid plans get scrapped almost as soon as things get started.  Being well-rested can help you better handle all the twists and turns that the start of the year bring.  In addition to rest, it is important to always drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated.  Dehydration leads to even more exhaustion, so be sure to load up on the H2O and get plenty of shut-eye to keep your brain sharp and fresh.

Tip #3 – Communicate Early & Often

To avoid stress and confusion down the road, start the year off with open lines of communication. As a teacher, communication comes in many forms – with colleagues, administrators, students, parents – and it is important to communicate effectively with all of them.

  • Colleagues – Communicate and collaborate with colleagues by sharing ideas for lesson plans, tips and tricks, tools and resources, etc. Why should teachers who teach the same curricula and grade level plan in isolation?  Use tools like OneNote and Skype to easily collaborate and communicate with colleagues.
  • Parents & Students – Opening the lines of communication with parents early-on is essential to not only provide them with pertinent information for your classroom, but also to introduce yourself and show them you are a real person! Consider creating a class newsletter using Sway to not only introduce yourself, but keep parents and students updated with your class throughout the year.
  • Administrators – In addition to email and face-to-face meetings, you can easily collaborate with colleagues and keep in touch with your administrators by using a OneNote Staff Notebook.

Tip #4 – Take Time for Family, Friends & Laughter

As they say, all work and no play is a bad combination.  Although the first few weeks of school tend to be work-focused, make sure to set aside time each day to spend with the people who mean the most to you.  And not only that, take time to laugh.  Laugh with your loved ones and enjoy the time with them.  And most importantly, allow yourself to laugh at the craziness that is back-to-school and enjoy what you do.  Laugher really is the best medicine.

Tip #5 – Persevere

Remember that without the terrible days, we would not be able to recognize the great ones.  No one is perfect.  If something didn’t work today, reflect on why, learn from it, and try something different next time.  Tomorrow is new day, a better day. Use resources such as the Microsoft Educator Network to expand your professional learning community beyond your school and district and to access a plethora of tools, tips, tutorials, discussions and more.  Keep at it and continue to take risks in your classroom so that you can be your very best for those who matter the most – the students!

Special thanks to my friend and colleague Sue Ramondo for her ideas and insight.

Team Teaching

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Well today I officially “Team-Taught” my first class as CFF coach!! I worked with an English teacher on a project he developed in which he would like his seniors to create a culminating project for the novel “The Motorcycle Diaries”. He outlined in his assignment that he would like the students to use Garageband to make a podcast or Comic Life to create a comic/graphic novel. We worked together on the rubrics for each product (thanks Rubistar). My ‘job’ in his classes today was to introduce the two pieces of software so that the students would have an informed decision about which application they would prefer to use. In searching for resources on the Internet I quickly found a short tutorial video for Garageband and Podcasting, but there was no such luck with Comic Life. So, after spending 30 minutes trying to find something, I decided to make my own! Check it out here…

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/b_83FgdOlM0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

However as we were going through the classes today, we both quickly realized that other pieces of software could also be used for this project with essentially the same final result. So, I suggested that the students be able to use iMovie, Scrapblog, or just about any application in which students can analyze, synthesize and create. The teacher was very receptive to the idea but seemed a bit hesitant with the software he is unfamiliar with. What was great though was when one student was interested in using Scrapblog, the teacher asked the student if she would be willing to give his classes a quick 5 minute intro/tutorial to the website. He did the same with another student who wished to use iMovie. Kudos to him for allowing the kids to teach the kids!

It’s wonderful to see real project-based, inquiry-based projects going on, and what’s the best- I’m part of the transformation of both teacher and students!!

Next Steps

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I am heading for a career change, whether I’m ready or not! Yesterday, as I was walking down the hallway in school after a technology training session, my principal asked if I had a few minutes to talk. As we walked, we talked, and he broached the topic of a new job for me at the high school. Once we arrived in his office, he asked me if I would like to be the Classrooms for the Future Coach for my district, if we do indeed receive the grant money. A bit hesitant, and not sure what I was getting myself into, I accepted the offer. Then, he and I tried to figure out how it would work out and we came up with a plan that I would teach 3 classes and they would hire a long-term sub for my other 2 classes. Although this would work, It was not the best option for the district, the students, the CFF program, or me. After talking a bit with a fellow CFF Coach Kristin Hokanson (thank goodness she happened to be training in my classroom yesterday!) I found out how much time I would be expected to be out of the school and in training. I went home last night stressed out and totally overwhelmed.

I went back to school today and met with the principal. He proposed a new plan. I will teach full-time French first semester of the year and then second semester, after the computers get here, I will be a full-time coach. They will get a long-term sub for all my classes for the second semester. That seems like a MUCH better plan and I am very very much looking forward to it.

This is going to be such an exciting year!!!