Teachers have the whole summer off! How many times I have heard that. Truth is, summer is when teachers are finally able to plan, organize, create, read, research, and learn about how to do their job better.
If you are doing all these things and they eventually lead you right back to your own classroom, then this post is for you.
This past week I went back to my school building to make some needed changes to my room arrangement and to speak with the principal. After our meeting, I walked down the quiet hall to my room. As I passed by some of the other classrooms I was surprised to notice that over half of the teachers had already been in and done some work in their rooms. Mind you– school doesn’t start for six more weeks!
The truth is, “school” is on nearly every teacher’s mind from the time when school is out until the first child steps into the classroom. But you won’t see these teachers at school, oh no! They don’t want anyone to know that their job means so much to them that they can’t stay away! So they slip in at odd hours, to be seen by only the lucky few.
They are like the Invisible Woman or the Invisible Man; no one sees them while they do their magic in the summer!
But if you are one of those superheroes and you ARE allowed in your building to spend a little time in your classroom, at least keep in mind these tips so you will stay on the best of terms with everyone involved:
#1 Communicate. Call ahead to ask the principal or head custodian what day (or week) it would be better for you to go in, or if it is even allowed to be in the building. In our school, entire classroom inventories are moved out into the hall every summer so that a new coat of wax can be put down onto the floor. Believe me, there is nothing worse than going in to work in your classroom and finding all your stuff stacked 5 feet high in the hall and the file cabinet you need to access is facing the wall with two bookshelves in front of it.
#2 Obey the obvious. If the sign says “Wet Paint, Keep Off” then keep off the wet paint! Although it was really funny when my friend Sal decided to ignore the sign in the hall in front of her classroom: She said she would just walk along the edge, because she REALLY had to get down the hall to her classroom THAT evening, paint or no paint! She touched it first with her fingers, decided it was “dry enough,” and tiptoed barefoot through the paint and down to her room. Everything was fine until she looked at the bottom of her feet and saw they were the color of a stop sign. She spent the next half hour finding more paint and doing “touch-ups” and “clean-ups.” Even though Sal retired several years ago, I still laugh at the comical image of her with a little child’s brush, repainting the tiptoe marks on the hall floor. So for your own safety and to prevent wasting precious time, obey all signs.
#3 Never take/trade anything from another part of the building and add it to your classroom without permission. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I remember when I came back in August and arranged my room for the new school year. Every desk and shelf was strategically placed for optimal learning. But when I returned the next day I noticed a small bookshelf was missing. Being a relatively new teacher I had not collected much in the way of classroom furniture, so every table and shelf was greatly needed. After politely peeking in a few classrooms I discovered the bookshelf in the room of a teacher who was new to the building.
My first instinct was to take it from her room and call her up and cry “How could you just walk in and take something out of my room?!?” which naturally would have put her on the defensive and set the tone for a bad year for both of us. Instead, I waited a day to cool off and had a quick word with the principal. She had the issue resolved quickly and the bookshelf magically reappeared in my classroom. The new teacher came in later that week and apologized, and the matter was never spoke of again. We later became close friends, which never would have happened if I would have impulsively reacted with anger. I was so glad I hadn’t. Which leads me to #4:
#4 If at all possible, never respond to a new problem
in the heat of the moment. Wait a few hours, or even the next day, if possible. And when you DO respond, remember to focus on the facts, not your feelings.
#5 Do what you came to do in your classroom and then LEAVE. Don’t look at that box of new school supplies someone delivered to your desk, even if they ARE whispering to you, “Come closer, my dear…..Look at my brightly colored packaging…You just know you want to unpack me!” But don’t listen to it. Be strong and walk away from the box. Put down those files, return the books to the shelves. You owe it to your family, your friends and yourself to enjoy the rest of your summer. The boxes, books, files, posters, etc., will be there when you get back.
Give yourself some well deserved time off so that you can come back to school well rested and clearheaded. You’ll be glad you did and so will your family and friends.
Besides….there’s always your Classroom Pintrest boards to turn to…
So if you’re fortunate enough to be allowed in your building over the summer to do some work or drop off a few newly acquired treasures, keep these five rules in mind and you’ll be the happiest teacher in or out of the classroom!
What other rules can you think of to help those of us who return to school during our time off? Please leave your answer in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you!