By Belinda Furman
“Good afternoon passengers. Welcome aboard Kentucky Teacher Airlines Flight 2017. Please secure your baggage underneath your seat or in the overhead compartment and fasten your seatbelts for takeoff. We may encounter some turbulence along the way, but we are prepared for a successful flight.”
Recently, I was preparing to go on a family vacation where I would be flying. I had so much on my mind as I was going through the process of getting ready to leave. Oddly enough, I also was thinking about how getting ready for this upcoming school year is like preparing for a flight.
First, let’s think about planning for our flight. We have a destination in mind when we book a flight, but for teachers, it is more about the journey we will be taking over the next school year. We can’t have a successful flight or school year if we haven’t planned accordingly.
Many teachers spend hours, days and weeks in the summer planning for the upcoming school year. They read educational books, attend professional development opportunities, reflect on the past school year and set goals for the upcoming year.
Summer may already be over for most teachers, but this type of planning can continue throughout the year. Maybe this is the year you pursue a National Board certification, join or lead a book study, attend or present at a new professional development opportunity, or become a Peer Learning Lab for others to observe and learn from you as you teach. Just because we have planned for our flight or school year doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from reflecting on where we want to go in the future.
Next, let’s think about preparing for our flight. What will you pack in your luggage and carryon? We know our luggage has to meet certain requirements and being organized can help in the packing. Organization is the key to both packing and setting up a successful classroom.
This school year, be prepared by creating a classroom environment that is inviting, neat and safe. Think about the lessons and students you teach and what will work best. Will you have a traditional classroom set up with desks and chairs or will you be going with flexible seating? Organizing books in a classroom library by level or genre can help readers make their books selections. Also, consider the accessibility of manipulatives and tools used for math and science. While these resources are great to have organized and stored away, they are even better when put in the hands of our students.
Also, when you are getting organized don’t forget to consider your classroom management, routines and expectations. These need to be thought out and taught to the students on day one, but reinforced all year long.
In my classroom I don’t focus on rules, rather I focus on behavior expectations. I spend time at the beginning of the year modeling the specific expectations and procedures I want followed in my classroom. When a student has difficulty with either an expectation or a procedure, I use that opportunity to reteach him/her what is expected. In addition, when I reteach my students I keep in mind the 4-to-1 ratio of positives to negatives comments.
Finally, let’s think about what it is like once you are on board your flight. Even though your school, like your flight, can be crowded, there is a lot to be gained by working with those around you. Make connections with the staff, students and families sharing your journey this school year.
Think about your fellow colleagues and how you can best learn from them or with them. Our colleagues are some of our best assets. Working collaboratively with other educators in your building, district, state or even abroad can help ensure that you students get the most out of this school year. It doesn’t matter if you are a new teacher or a veteran teacher, we can all learn from one another, share ideas, resources and make the most out of collaborating for our students.
Oh and speaking of students, get to know them. One of the most important things a teacher can do is getting to know his or her students and build relationships that foster mutual respect. From the moment your students walk in the door, be ready to greet them and show them you care. The beginning of the year is a great time to interview your students and have them complete interest inventories. Get to know their families and their lives outside of the classroom. This information will help you understand each student as an individual and as a part of the class.
Now I know what you are thinking – not every flight or school year goes smoothly. When things don’t go as planned, just stop and focus on your flight plan. What is your goal at the end of the year? Maybe you have to take alternate paths to get where you want to go. Don’t focus on the negative, which is so easy to do; instead try to focus on the positive and the things that are going right. Tell yourself that in time, you will overcome these challenges too.
“On behalf of Kentucky Teacher Airlines and the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip. We hope you enjoy the flight and travel safely. Once we land, be ready to collect your baggage because this flight – and school year – will be over before you know it.”
Belinda Furman is a 2nd-grade teacher at Sherman Elementary. She is in her 18th year of teaching in Grant County schools. She taught 16 years at Dry Ridge Elementary as a 3rd- and 4th-grade teacher before taking her current role at Sherman. Furman earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Kentucky University, her master’s degree in instructional leadership from Eastern Kentucky University and achieved her Rank 1 through National Board certification. She is the 2018 Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year.