Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Teaching with CLASS podcast. I'm your host, Kate Cline. Here we are speeding toward the end of another December. This time of year, we often pause and think about the past year and the year to come. For this last episode of the season, we thought we'd do the same thing. We're taking a moment to wrap things up and put a bow on 2022, so please forgive me, the gift-wrapping pun there. Let's do some reflection and get ready for the start of a brand new calendar year.
How has 2022 been for you? Are you where you want to be? Are you where you thought you'd be? How is the self-care going? And how are things going in your classroom and with your teaching team?
This season, our focus on the podcast has been you, bringing you interesting people to listen to with inspiring perspectives and helpful ideas to try out in your classroom, encouraging you to take care of yourself, and grow as a professional.
This season, we kick things off with Mr. Chazz, who reminded us about the importance of a classroom community and the commitment it takes to intentionally build that community beyond the classroom. As Mr. Chazz suggested, have you tried being an improvinist rather than a perfectionist?
Deidre Harris helped us twice this season to think about our classroom, team vision, and how to make specific plans and commitments for bringing that vision to life. Deidre also stressed the importance of writing our agreements down because as she said, conflict isn't an if, it's a when. Have you thought and talked with your classroom team about your classroom vision and agreements?
We also heard from Dr. Angela Searcy, who helped us think about how to manage our own thoughts and behaviors, so we can be a better support to the children in our classroom. She had so many tips for turning challenging moments into moments of peace and connection in the classroom. Did you feel reassured? I know I sure did. I felt so reassured when Dr. Searcy reminded us that it's okay to be negative, but not to stay negative.
When we talked with Marnetta Larrimer, we had a great reminder that it's not about doing class on observation day, because that is bound to backfire. It's about remembering the importance of relationships and interactions on a daily basis, establishing consistent routines, and keeping children engaged with compelling materials and opportunities to think and explore.
It's not about a perfect classroom with perfect children. It's about making the best of each day, and responding with care, consistency, and cognitive challenges when difficult moments happen. Be confident when that observer walks into your classroom. If you're doing these things each day, you can tell yourself, hey, I've got this.
When we talked with Alisha Saunders-Wilson, she helped us think about the importance of classroom setup, helping the children and ourselves be successful. Maybe it's the time of year to think about a classroom refresh. What areas are gathering dust? What materials need to be changed out? And if you've already put out everything you have for the children to use this year, what are some ways you can combine materials to push children's learning and keep them engaged?
And lastly, we talked about advocacy. Jacob Stewart reminded us about the importance of advocacy and encouraged us to try raising our voices about the critical state of our educational systems. Jacob told us that advocacy comes in many forms, from brief conversations with a neighbor or even a stranger in line at the grocery store, to those more formal statements we might make (perhaps) in an email or at a town hall to our elected officials.
It's important to pick the form of advocacy that feels most natural, so that our message is genuine and gets to the heart of the matter. We teachers, administrators, parents, and most importantly, the children need more resources before it's too late.
We even heard from some teacher influencers, Miss Redacted and Mrs. Frazzled, about how they get their message out to the world on TikTok. It's okay to speak up for ourselves. I even kept my promise to Jake and sent emails to my congressman. How did you engage in advocacy this year?
Now that we've looked backwards, it's time to look forward. I've always thought it was fun to have two New Year's celebrations—one in January at the start of the calendar year, and one at the start of the new school year in the fall. That means that this new calendar year gives us a great excuse to do a mid school year reset.
We know we always like to start the school year with some goals, and maybe you did that this year. Maybe you made some goals for yourself. Maybe you wanted to find a new way to organize your paperwork or change your routine to make things flow more smoothly during a major classroom transition.
Perhaps you created a plan with your team to make sure each child was personally welcomed to the classroom each day. Whatever your goals, it's a good time to assess how it's going. What's been successful? What's been forgotten about in the busyness of each day? What will you recommit to during your mid-year refresh?
I thought I might mention a few things to help you gear up for the rest of the school year. First—you probably know this; we just talked about it—we're more successful with our goals when we write them down and share them with someone.
What's one goal that you made this school year that you need a little effort and support for still? Try writing it down, telling a coworker about it and putting it someplace you'll see every day. Don't just think about it, do it. When you accomplish it, celebrate.
Next, oftentimes in the classroom, we have experiences or situations that only happen once or maybe twice a year, like picture day, holiday events, field trips, or special content experiences. At that moment, we think, oh, my gosh, I am definitely doing this stuff differently next year. But then, when next year rolls around, we can't remember our new ideas.
Years ago, I worked with a teacher who kept a woulda-shoulda-coulda note, where she recorded all of those ideas. You know the ones like, if only I would have done that science activity differently, or I should have thought ahead about that child's needs, or I could have asked for parent help during that event. You know how it goes. Here's an idea. Make yourself a woulda-shoulda-coulda journal. Make a habit of it to record and refer back to ideas and insights that you have each day.
Another mid-year suggestion is to remember to reestablish your classroom community and individual connections with children and co-teachers when you return in January. We all know that even a long weekend can throw children off a routine. Not all households are places of joy and peace during the holidays.
Many children look forward to getting back to school, seeing their friends and getting back into a familiar routine. Some children will go back through all of those separation challenges that they had worked through earlier this fall when they come back in January.
Be sure to include time to reconnect in your lesson plans, time to talk and catch up, and time to remind everyone about the rules, routines, and expectations. As we've talked about in so many episodes this season, relationships are the foundation of an effective classroom. Taking time to reconnect and reestablish when you come back in January will be time well spent for a successful end to the school year.
Lastly, burnout is a real thing, and your job is too important to have you wearing yourself out. Your kids and your families at school need you, and your family and friends need you at home too. If you've started and kept up a self-care routine or ritual, I want to congratulate you. You are amazing. And if you've been successful in this way, use the energy that you have now to find a way to pay it forward. Who can use support are encouraged to take time for their self care?
Could you text a funny gift each Wednesday to a friend who needs a little support to get through each week or set a standing date to take a 10-minute walk each evening and talk on the phone with a friend who's struggling? If you haven't found a self-care routine that works for you yet, please keep trying. I don't think I can ever say it enough. You matter, and your work with children each day is incredibly important. You are building the future.
For the last time this season, I want to encourage you to keep going. If you get a break during this time of year, even if it's just a day or two, take time for yourself. Do something that refreshes you and your body, mind, and spirit. The new year will be upon us before we know it, and the children in your classroom and your teaching team need you. Take care of yourself because what you do matters.