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How do we best prepare?
The end of summer is approaching – at least for teachers and students. It is a good time to reflect on prepping for classes. I know many teachers who work all summer prepping classes. I am not that teacher. In fact, I don’t even think it is best for students. What do I think is best for students? Well, in my opinion, prepping classes after you get to know the students and as you work through the year is better for students. Every class is different and they learn at different paces, etc. If a teacher comes and proudly tells me they have their lesson plans all laid out for the month, semester, year, etc. I automatically know they are more about teaching material than teaching students. Now, that is not to say you can’t have proven lessons ready to roll (although when and how you use them might be different each year), but there always needs to be adaptation and flexibility. So… does that mean I don’t prep during the summer at all? Well, not exactly.
I think the best “prep” is two-fold. First, I look at my unit plans. I get a general feel for the content that I am expected to teach. I don’t do anything extensive – I just get a basic familiarity especially on the beginning couple of units. Then, throughout the summer, things start coming to me. I will do and see things that give me ideas for lessons, topics, and stories that I will use throughout the year. Knowing your unit plans will help you make these connections.
The other thing I do is READ! First, I do read about general strategies of best practice teaching. These usually come from conferences or trainings. I don’t do a lot of this because I find it boring. I would much rather collaborate with other teachers to improve my teaching. That said, I have a subscription to The Week, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, The Denver Post, and The China Daily (since I’m going to be teaching in China – but do what makes sense for your situation). I actually get all of these on my Kindle and have it at my fingertips all summer. (If subscriptions are cost prohibitive for you, spend time in your public library or ask your school librarian if you can pick up summer copies.) I believe we as teachers must keep up on current events. I believe this no matter what subject you teach (yes shop teachers this includes you) or what grade level you teach (yes kindergarten teachers this includes you). My content is Social Studies so it is especially important for me to keep up on world events; however, if we are trying to make our content relevant so students can see connections to “the real world,” then we all need to know what is going on to help them make those connections. Most of my best lessons are enhanced by things that I’ve recently read (I make it a point to keep reading during the school year as well). Bringing in articles or sprinkling in tidbits through daily warm-ups, examples of concepts, and discussion topics are some simple ways to quickly connect content to current events. It is powerful when a student makes a comment or asks a question and a teacher can readily support the student’s statement or provide an example by drawing on a wide range of real-world readings generic viagra for sale.
I guess ultimately what I am advocating is simply living life with an eye toward your content. It will make us better teachers.
(Josh Guddat is a social studies teacher with experience in secondary teaching from Advanced Placement to at-risk alternative education. He is embarking on a multi-year teaching assignment in China. Watch for more blogs from Josh as he shares his learning and experiences there.)