They say if you love your job, you never work a day in your life. I love my job. I love being an art teacher. Creating art with kids all day, the busy schedule, the long hours, the mile long to-do lists… I really do love it all. Another big perk about my job is summer break. Of course I enjoy having a couple of months off when showering and make-up become optional, but honestly my love for summer break goes a little deeper than not having to set an alarm clock for two months. It comes from the fact that there is a brand new school year coming at the end of summer break.
My summer is coming to a close very soon. This past week my family and I have been at the beach. While on vacation I have had lots of time to reflect about my summer. But even while on vacation, I feel like I am busting with excitement and anticipation at the start of the new school year right around the corner.
That is because in two weeks I get to start over.
In two weeks I get to greet an entire school full of children with a classroom full of freshly sharpened pencils, neatly organized and replenished art supplies, and shiny waxed floors. I’ll have my crisp new planner ready to be penciled in with a year’s worth of plans and the students’ empty portfolios will be ready to be filled with artwork. It will be a fresh start, like turning over a new leaf on a new school year. A chance to do things better. A chance to try again at the things that didn’t work last year and repeat the things that did. It’s like the excitement of January 1st in the middle of August.
As I was relaxing with my family this past week, I started thinking about how great it will be to return to work soon after such a wonderful summer break. Then, I started considering how beneficial it is to incorporate times throughout the year to allow for a restart as well. Whether I need a chance to regroup as a stressed out teacher, or a difficult class needs a fresh start on making better choices, or my students need a change of pace from the normal classroom routine, we all need opportunities periodically to start over. I think it’s important to incorporate time to regroup and provide clean slates for you and your students throughout the year.
I strive to provide restarts in several ways in my classroom.
Allow Students A Fresh Start At The Beginning of Every Class
The most simple and probably one of the most important ways is to make sure that when your students enter your classroom, whether it’s daily or weekly, they feel empowered to be their best. Your students need to know that whatever happened last time you saw them, it isn’t going to carry over and start them behind the game this time. If they walk into your room already feeling defeated it will be hard for them to feel capable of succeeding. This applies to individual students who may have had a hard time in your class the week before or whole classes who struggled to get their act together last time you saw them. Allow your students to feel confident each time you see them, and know that regardless what happened last time they were in your room, they have the chance to improve and do better.
Regroup Students Who Start Class Off On The Wrong Foot
Even with a positive mindset toward your students, we all have those times when it seems regrouping is necessary A.S.A.P. If a class can’t settle down or I have a student whose day may not have gone so well before my class, I try to regroup right away in an effort to save the rest of class period from going in a downward spiral. Sometimes I will instruct the class to line up, exit the room, and then walk back in more appropriately. There are also times when I stop a lesson and allow the students a few minutes to move around and shake their wiggles out before returning to what I was teaching. If I have student who comes in that seems to be having a hard time shaking off something that happened prior to my class, I remind him/her that my room is a chance at a new start and an opportunity to have a better day from that point on. Those students may also need time to sit alone to regroup by themselves for longer, but I address those situations individually depending on the student and his/her needs.
Provide Students With A Chance To Restart Each Nine Week Grading Period
I also implement a behavior system that allows my classes to start over each nine week grading period. Each class works to earn a free fun day in art at the end of each nine weeks. I do hold their behavior accountable throughout the grading period. If certain classes don’t earn their entire fun day then there are consequences, but then the classes have the chance to start over and earn their entire fun day for the next nine weeks. These fun days also become a great opportunity for a change of pace from our usual art class routine. On fun days students look forward to having various fun art centers for them to choose from during their time in class. Free fun days are great for giving me a break from the same teaching routine and allow the students to pause their regular art work and spend an entire class period creating freely as they wish.
Summer break is coming to an end soon. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot I will miss about my days off, but nonetheless I can’t wait to start back at work. Whenever your summer comes to a close, I hope you can face the new school year with excitement at getting a fresh start. I also hope you can remember how motivating and rejuvenating the beginning of the school year feels and I challenge you to find times throughout the year to allow you and your students to press the “restart” button. I think you will find it really helps with getting through the long months of the school year.