By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.
January is a great time of the year for teachers, school administrators and parents. It is a time to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate what has worked and what needs to be revised to move the students closer to proficiency. For starters, the teachers have just come out of a two week holiday break, a much needed vacation that rejuvenated our faith in making a difference in our students’ lives. Let’s be honest. By mid November, our exhaustion made us question why we chose such a tiring profession. However, the holiday break does a great job reminding us that we love being in the classroom. Here are my top five tips on how to rearrange your classroom for the second half of the school year.
#1 Time to reorganize
Although we are in the middle of the winter season and the idea of spring cleaning seems like a lifetime away (especially for my fellow Michiganders), but it is time to clean the classroom. Let us rearrange the glue bins, take down old posters, and get rid of all of the extra scrap paper that we know our students are not going to use by June. Allocate classroom jobs that give the students the opportunity to help keep the place spick and span from organizing the bookshelves to throwing out broken crayons. Also, this might be a good time to rearrange the students’ teams based on updated test scores and putting down new name tags since the ones you used to label desks and cubbies back in August are probably all torn. You would be amazed on how excited students get by seeing their names on new nametags. Remember, a dirty classroom is not a kid problem-it is an adult problem so teach the students to keep their learning environment clean.
#2 Update classroom supply list
Send out an updated supply list to all the parents and guardians in your classroom. This is a great time to send out a classroom newsletter, notifying all of the parents and guardians on what type of supplies their child will need for the remainder of the school year. Encourage students to save their old notebooks and to use them as their personal reference material when completing homework and studying.
#3 Reevaluate parent communication outlets
While you are sending the updated classroom supply list, you need to also think about what method of communication has worked with this year’s parents. Every classroom is different so the same communication that worked last year might not necessarily be the best way to send out important notices to parents this year. Whether it is by email, notes home, voicemail, or newsletter, keep track of what has worked and what has not so that you are being efficient and effective. Also, if you have not already done so, make sure you keep track of all the communication you have with the parents in your parent communication log.
#4 Update class data
By now, you have a great idea of where each student is performing and chances are, your school is probably going to participate in some type of a midyear assessment. Use the updated data to drive your instruction. Dig deep in the scores and figure out exactly where most of your students are struggling academically. For example, look at your math data. If your students scored low in measurement, then figure out exactly what part of measurement do most of them not understand. Are they having a hard time telling time? Or possibly, they are struggling with converting units from ounces to gallons or feet to inches? The more you understand their deficiencies, the more you will be able to help them grow because you will teach them what they have yet to master.
#5 Time to have those serious conversations
Reviewing the data will give you the opportunity to differentiate instruction so that everything you teach is intentional. However, if you have a couple of students that continue to struggle despite all interventions, then you need to have some serious conversations with the parents and perhaps the RTI team. Sometimes, a pair of eye glasses is the missing key to solving a student’s academic needs since they are not able to see the board clearly. Perhaps, they are staying up late watching too much television without their parents’ permission and that is why they keep falling asleep in class. Or maybe, they are having a hard time staying focused and regardless of who is sitting next to them, they continue to be distracting and repeatedly blurt out during instruction. Whatever the case may be, you need to have these important conversations with their parents especially if it retaining to retention. It is never too early to have these important conversations with parents and the more updated they are about their child’s education, the more supportive they will be in the long run.
In August, we get so excited about putting up new bulletin boards, sending the first supply list and contacting our students for the first time. However, by November, teachers, like everyone else, become overwhelmed with their personal lives preparing for the holiday season that we get burned out. Take this time to reenergize your spirits about closing the achievement gap and remember that regardless of how stressful it may be at times, your work in the classroom is appreciated.
About Zemen Marrugi
Zemen Marrugi is the Founder/President of Those Who Can, Teach! and an experienced teacher and national presenter. Marrugi has worked as a classroom teacher and has presented workshops on topics like differentiated instruction and the writing process. In addition to working with elementary/middle school teachers, Marrugi has also presented workshops for college activities personnel at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Association for Student Advancement and the National Association for Campus Activities. Click here for more information on Zemen Marrugi.