Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.
Charles M. Sheldon
Summer is when we all think about things we’re going to do differently next year. Like that annual water thing. We go out and buy a gigantic jug and resolve to fill it every morning—and promise ourselves we will drink every drop. We do this valiantly, for a week or two, anyway, and then a whole year passes without a proper gulp.
There are other feeble promises we make to ourselves—we’re going to leave school each afternoon with our email inbox empty; we’re going to be so well prepared that there are never any last-minute copies needed; we’re not going to let that one nasty parent email overshadow the 500 positive and grateful ones.
Alas, by mid-September, most of those promises are broken.
Maybe instead of the same list of hopeful resolutions, let’s think of some realistic ones. Here are three easy ideas to think about as you move toward the first day of school.
Experiment with “losing” your Friday night instead of Sunday night. That stack of student work you have to manage over the weekend? The one that hangs out in the back of your mind, from Friday afternoon until Sunday night? This year, try challenging yourself—even if it’s just once—to stay at work Friday afternoon and bust through that stack. You’ll be tired and grumpy, but if you think about a Sunday night with nothing to do, you’ll be motivated to finish. And Sunday will feel like the best gift you’ve ever given yourself.
Stock up on whatever you need for Taco Night. You know how some people panic if they don’t have eggs, milk, and bread at home? I’m like those people, too. Except for me, I must have the fixins for tacos. It’s important for me to know that no matter how much energy I’ve spent on any particular day, I always have a pound of ground beef, some flour tortillas, cheese, and a jar of decent salsa. Whatever your thing is—the meal that makes you or your family happy, the one you have made so frequently you can put it together in 15 minutes flat—that’s the stuff you should make sure to always stock in the freezer or pantry. Dinner. Delicious. Done. And stress dissipated.
Stop hauling around stuff because you might get to it. We all do this. We have a giant bag, and every night we stuff it with folders, pencil boxes, stacks of papers, professional books, fiction books, nonfiction books, and perhaps a half-full water bottle, a leftover sandwich, a set of Legos… who knows. Whatever it is, we haul it home, flop it on the floor in the foyer, see it from our eye’s corner all evening. Then haul it back to school, where we unload it on our work spaces. And then, at the end of the day, we load it all up again. This year, go realistic and light. Bring home only what you are 100% sure you will be able to complete at night. Only the stuff you must complete, really want to complete, or will have time to complete. Everything else? Let it be.
I could suggest 100 other things we do throughout this school year to help stay happy, positive, and feeling good. Most of them (especially that water thing) are just too hard to sustain when things get really busy and overwhelming (and when we remember how inconvenient it is to have to pee all the time). Regardless of what you do differently (these three things or three other things that work for you), I wish you all a beautiful start to a new school year.
This week we look at improving student writing notebooks. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Long an avid reader, Jennifer Schwanke has worked as an educator for 15 years. She taught middle school language arts for six years before moving into administration at both the middle school and elementary level. Jen enjoys thinking of more effective ways to present literacy to students at these vulnerable ages. You can find her latest thinking at her Leading and Learning blog.
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Melanie Meehan finds that a notebooks tour is a terrific minilesson for helping students expand the ways they use notebooks:
What makes writing notebooks authentic? Katherine Sokolowski ponders the question and changes her instruction:
Here are some fun notebook prompts for early in the school year from the Moving Writers blog:
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If you’re looking for the perfect launch for writers’ notebooks this school year, you might want to begin with story. Tara Barnett and Kate Mills explain how:
Ruth Ayres shares some of the powerful connections between stories and writing workshops:
Are you considering school-to-home journals in your classroom this year? Jennifer Schwanke describes how these notebooks build community and literacy skills:
In this week’s video, Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Spencer brainstorm topics for his writing notebook:
New PD2Go: Ruth Ayres confers with Jade about the value of collecting ideas in her writer’s notebook, and shares some strategies for organizing the information:
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard ELA-Literacy.W.4.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.