The start of the school year is as exhilarating as it is challenging. But with so much of your attention focused on your new students and helping them grow, it’s easy to put aside your own development as a teacher. To keep your growth on track, we offer some fun and, we hope, surprising professional mini-goals for each month of the year, including summer. These range from Classroom 2.0 webinars to field trips to far-flung spots around the globe. Try some or all of them, or integrate them with goals you already have in mind. You might just be surprised where you find yourself this time next year!
Make the leap to the digital domain. Keep your lesson plans streamlined and easily accessible from home or school with an online planning book. With sites like planbook.com or planbookedu.com, you can share your plans with colleagues, administrators, or a substitute teacher. If you work with a coteacher, try collaborating on lesson plans with Google Docs.
Curate Your Collection
As you’re pulling together materials for the entire year, no doubt you’re discovering must-have links to online teaching resources. Don’t just bookmark them—collect and organize them with sites that let you be the curator, such as livebinders.com, pearltrees.com, pinterest.com, and evernote.com. Share your own or peruse collections that other teachers have created.
Plant Some Seeds
Brighten gray November days by thinking ahead to spring. Apply now for an Annie’s Homegrown Garden Grant for school and community gardens (deadline: Dec. 15). Winners will be announced in mid-April. Want your students to have their garden and eat it, too? Learn more at edibleschoolyard.org.
Invest in New Tools
At this point you have a pretty good idea of what each of your students needs. Carve out some time this month to find new ideas and strategies for helping them where they’re struggling and inspiring them to challenge themselves. Refill your idea toolbox with teacher webinars from PBS (pbs.org/teachers/webinar) and Scholastic (scholastic.com/teachers/article/scholastic-webinars).
Join a Word Fest
Ease your students back into the swing of things after winter break with a reading-incentive program that’ll get them fired up about books. The American Association of School Librarians offers the Innovative Reading Grant for school-wide initiatives that help struggling readers (deadline: Feb. 1). For more, go to ala.org/aasl.
Look to the Bottom Line
Your district’s school board is already gearing up for next year’s budget talks. Attend this month’s board meeting to get a feel for what might end up on the chopping block this spring. Research potential school-business partnerships in your community and draft a proposal for how such a partnership might help save essential programs.
Find Your New Role
What are your professional plans for next year? Do you want to change grade levels? Apply for department chair? Head a committee? Principals start thinking about staffing now; be proactive and schedule a conversation with your principal to talk about your options. Or maybe you’ve always wondered what it would be like to teach overseas. Search Associates (searchassociates.com) and International Schools Services (iss.edu) specialize in international teacher recruitment.
Hit the Road
Feed your love of all things literary and hobnob with reading specialists and authors by attending the International Reading Association conference April 19–22 in San Antonio, Texas. The theme this year is Celebrating Teachers Making a Difference, something we’re all striving to do! You can register on-site or sign up early to save some money.
Honor the Parents
Is your PTA/PTO doing great things this year? Build community goodwill by nominating them for Parent Group of the Year for individual events or ongoing projects that they have sponsored. Learn more at ptotoday.com/pgy (deadline: May 31). And if you’re not already participating, jump in—it’s a step toward taking on a leadership role at your school.
Sit Down and Write Yourself a Letter
We know—when that last school bell rings, it’s tempting to race out the door and try to beat the school buses out of the parking lot. Instead, take time to reflect on your year. What worked well with your students? What would you like to change for next year? Write an e-mail with your thoughts and send it to yourself. Flag it as high priority so you won’t miss it when you’re back at your desk in the fall.
Brush Up on Bits and Bytes
Once you’ve spent the requisite number of hours on the beach or in a hammock, set a tech goal for next year, like starting a class blog or incorporating some of the latest educational apps. Explore teacher hashtags on Twitter like #edchat, #edtech, #edapps, and #kidlit. Brush up on the latest Web tools with a free Classroom 2.0 tutorial put together by the California Technology Assistance Project (ctapcl2.blogspot.com). Learn how to create a podcast, set up an RSS feed with your favorite teacher blogs, or start a blog of your own.
Show a Rookie the Ropes
Volunteer to mentor a brand-new teacher this year. Meet with your mentee for coffee or lunch before the school year starts, and answer any questions she or he may have about teaching and your school. Consider volunteering a morning or an afternoon to help your mentee get a head start in setting up the classroom.