“One important key to success is self-confidence, one important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
It’s summer, the time when educators can sit back, relax and take a break from the hectic school year. Any teacher will admit that although teaching is a challenge, it is more importantly a reward. The new year can sneak up on you quickly,and throw you back into stress mode while you try to stay in summer mode.
Adopting a few preparation techniques during the summer break will make a huge difference for you. I’m going to share a few I use in my own practice which might be helpful for you, along with some tips from a dear friend and colleague.
1. Planning is your Friend
I often plan each week what I will do during sessions with my clients. Naturally, unplanned challenges come up during sessions and as a mindful therapist, I know, it’s important to be able to improvise and make changes as the need arises. As a therapist, I believe regulation comes first: the child first feels calm and focused and next comes learning. My colleague Tirtza Katz, a Teacher of the Handicapped and Certified DIR Floortime specialist suggests to plan as many lessons as possible in the summer. This allows us to enhance the lessons as the school year grows closer, and gives us time to better support students and parents.
2. Enhance Unconventionally
Children pay more attention when we make things interesting. Schoolhouse Rock did best with those animated short and catchy songs that allowed children to learn AND sing along with them. I’ve found myself using interesting knickknacks to create OT games with great success, which incorporated a challenging and fun atmosphere. Check out this earlier blog post, where I discuss using spandex to create a ‘pulley’ activity. I created it using leftover scraps of spandex. The child and I each take a loop and pull to see who gets to the base first. It ended up being an excellent tool for body awareness. https://otthrive.com/2015/05/18/spandex-my-favorite-material/ Try a dollar store, or the sale rack at your local store for cheap or sale items to use for your classroom. The ideas are endless!
3. You Teach (but you should learn and adapt, too!)
Check out workshops, classes or conferences that may be going on. I enjoy OT conferences I find throughout the year. There is always more to learn and these events can offer great information such as the chance to reach out with other practitioners and bounce ideas off one another. Rather than content yourself with basic lessons from years past, use experiences to help you add detail, change the format and most importantly… Don’t let yourself get stale!
4. Giving a Workshop Can Be Hard Work
The title is true, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful! Using an app like Keynote (available for iOS devices) or Power point on your computer makes the visual component very easy. This can allow a group of teachers to prepare together, and give each teacher information to be used. Tirtza suggests, to focus on areas you have noticed consistent lapses or gaps in your support staff, through the programs listed above. If you don’t have support staff, consider a teacher study group. Every member presents a workshop on their strength, which allows you to grow as a team.
5. Goal in One!
Set a professional goal for the year. This will help prevent you from staleness and focus you at the same time. Which areas seem promising for professional development? For example, you could take extra mentoring sessions to focus on coaching techniques with families or with staff. You could also shadow or observe a colleague teach summer classes. Tirtza and I agree this helped both of us tremendously in our respective fields. You may not realize it right away, but the little things you do every day adds up! Thinking and planning ahead helps you start with your best foot forward, for the best
school year possible!