Literacy Coaches: Schools out. Now what?

LITERACY COACHESI was visiting a school today in rural Vermont, on their last day of school, a half day. I spent the morning organizing classroom library books while kids and teachers were engaged in move-up day, and at lunch I watched as the entire staff joined together in the front of the school, and waved to the the buses as kids loaded up. The kids waved out the windows, smiling and shouting, “Have a great summer! I’ll miss you! You were the best teacher ever!” The teachers waved back shouting, “Goodbye! We’ll miss you! Happy summer! You were the best kids ever!”

Then the buses rolled away. The teachers walked back in, still smiling, and then we all sat down and started planning for next year.

That’s kind of how it is every summer, isn’t it? We anticipate the last day, sometimes even counting down. It’s bittersweet, saying goodbye to one group of kids, sometimes switching schools, or switching jobs. It feels like an ending. But then, the moment the kids leave the building, we’re literally back to work getting ready for whatever is coming next.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to do this summer to prepare for my work as a coach next year. The list is endless, but here are a few that I plan to prioritize for the coming weeks:

ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF

If you’re like me, by the end of the year, all your professional books are in piles everywhere, your file cabinet has been pulled apart throughout the year, and your computer desktop has become a dumping grounds. The summer is the time to put everything back in its rightful spot. And if you’re like me, you won’t have time to do this in the midst of the school year, even though you know how much easier your life would be if only you could find things when you need them.

Speaking of stuff, the summer is a good time to rethink your computer filing system. As a coach, you probably work across grade levels, even across schools. The documents and files can get out of control without a system that works. This summer, I’m hoping to finally make the switch to having EVERYTHING on Google Drive, instead of living with everything half on my computer hard drive, and half in the cloud.

PRACTICE YOUR ROUTINES

Early on in the summer figure out a better system for handling scheduling, emails, projects, and deadlines. Do this during the summer, when the workload is at least a tiny bit lighter. Practice it all summer long so that by the time the new school year begins, you’ve worked out all the bugs.

This summer, I’m practicing using the Reminders app to manage deadlines better (I was using an app called any.do which I loved but I need to make a change. It’s me, not them.), and I’m going to make the switch from iCal to Google Calendar. I’m also going to re-watch the In-Box Zero video – it changed my life the first time I watched it, but it’s time I revisited.

PLANS, PLANS, AND MORE PLANS

If you know what your schedule is going to look like in the fall, it would be a good idea not to wait until August to start pulling together agendas and plans for the workshops you know you’re going to be leading. On the other hand, you don’t want to plan too much. It’s inevitable that there will be requests and changes as the school year begins, and you don’t want to plan everything down to the minute too far in advance. An outline will be helpful. Too much detail, and all your hard work could end up going to waste.

My new strategy is to create a folder for the plans, and create a simple outline. Sometimes I just open a blank document and give it a title, using the document as a placeholder. I wait until about three weeks ahead to do any more than that in case there are cancellations.

Simply creating a new document to start working on an agenda or starting a new set of presentation slides forces me to immediately realize one of these three things:

“Whoa. This one is going to be harder than I thought.”

“Ooh! We should order that new book (or other material that takes time) for this!”

“I need to talk to so-and-so before I make these plans.”

Better to do that first step well in advance if you can, than waiting until the week before school starts, or in the midst of the fall craziness. I’m saying this not as a person who has perfected the art of doing things ahead of time, but as a person who needs to work on this.

WORK ON YOUR OWN WRITING

This summer, you might decide to commit to writing weekly (if you don’t already). Perhaps you’ll join us for Slice of Life Challenge each Tuesday, or perhaps you have another type of writing in mind. Growing a writing habit over the summer will help you maintain it throughout the school year.

I’ve chosen these four things to prioritize because they feel manageable for the summer, in the midst of teaching courses and spending time with my family. I hope to also squeeze in a few professional books to read, maybe a few webinars here and there.

What are you doing this summer to help you get ready for next year? What new strategies for organizing and planning do you hope to try? What books are you hoping to read? What conferences (in person or online) will you attend? And most importantly, what are you writing?

Share your plans in the comments below.