Preflight Checklist for a New School Year

A MiddleWeb Blog

kids cusp2There is a little over a week left on the horizon before the 2015-2016 school year begins in New Jersey. Ten weeks of summer have flown by and, although my travels during the months of July and August proved to be quite adventurous, the time has come to pack my suitcase for my next excursion…an extended one…back to Room 106.

It feels good to be heading back to the familiar surroundings of school, and I’m anticipating an exciting trip. I’ll officially begin my pre-flight checklist on September 2nd, with our annual districtwide welcome by the superintendent. Take-off, however, is scheduled for September 8th. That’s the day my new class will arrive for boarding on their fourth grade charter flight. And that’s when the non-stop adventure really begins.

New travelers will be joining me

plane on photos 270The past two months have been spent preparing and packing for this trip. July and August were devoted to island-hopping on shorter excursions via the Internet. I brought home some useful souvenirs from these jaunts. Many factors need to be considered as I ponder what will be needed for the new school year. New travelers will be joining me and they’re never flown this route before. What will the climate be like at our destination? Should I bring lots of luggage or throw caution to the wind and decide now that I can always find what I need in Room 106 and in cyberspace once we are underway?

Packing the basics

When preparing for a trip, one must pack the essentials. In fourth grade, that means a basic curriculum for each specific content area. The most important thing to remember, however, is to bring along all the prior experiences that can help enrich our time together at all the stops we plan to make.

I have taken this journey many times before, and after 18 years, I am still learning what to bring and what to leave at home. But there are four things I will be sure to carry on: creativity, a positive attitude, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective.

Setting the right tone for the trip will be essential. The airplane needs to get off the ground and into the air if we expect to have a smooth flight. If the takeoff isn’t successful, it could be a bumpy ride!

A successful journey starts with a theme

Last year, when our fourth grade adventure began, the Welcome bulletin board read: “What Will You Be in 4-T?” This year, we are starting out with a checklist, and the question being asked this September is: “What Do We DO in 4-T?”

Welcome to 4T DO big

This question was inspired by two educators I met this summer during an online course that was created by The Walking Classroom Institute. The course was designed to help teachers share ideas in ways that will enhance student learning across curriculums. To achieve this goal action is called for, and so we will begin by asking ourselves what we will DO this year to make the trip a success.

For example: in Classroom 4-T, We Do Laughter…We Do Homework…We Do Learning…We Do “I need help”…We Do Forgiveness. In 4-T, I hope to do many things. These hopes and plans (and a well packed carry-on case) should do the trick.

My Packing List:

  • Several planned hiking and walking tours in Social Studies and Language Arts. The topics we will encounter are enhanced by our out-of-classroom, off-road adventures.
  • A little time at the pool to relax and escape with a portfolio of inspiring read-alouds to explore during Reading and Writing Workshops. I listed them in one of last year’s posts.
  • A few scheduled sightseeing tours of history, through the use of interactive learning centers.

This will be my first attempt to manage time more effectively through the use of interactive learning centers. I need to be ready for turbulence. The Internet can go down without warning, but I don’t want the plane to!

A few more items for the trip

Keeping in mind the carry-on bag measurement and weight requirements, I’ll need a few more things:

woman traveler suitcaseSome “lost perspectives” I uncovered this summer (in closets and drawers) are definitely going with me on this trip.

• I also need to make room for some newly acquired resources gathered during summer’s travels. Piles of books of varying genres and bulging files, thick with possibilities, have filled the empty, expectant folders now tucked carefully into my carry-on bag.

Ready to fly

I’m ready. It’s time to head to the airport. There is a slight increase in my heart rate as I find myself waiting for that moment when we will have just enough force to push us up into the sky.

As I depart for the trip, it’s important for me to remember that I am not actually flying the plane. I’m not in charge of security checkpoints, and nobody has given me personal access to a specific flight plan (if there is one in Big Education today).

I hope there isn’t as much rough weather as there was last year, with the implementation of new testing procedures, teacher evaluations, core content commentary, and other factors that affected the comfort of last year’s passengers. Regardless, we’ll be on the runway in about two weeks.

It is time to fly to places that are familiar, yet unknown. I’m looking forward to the trip, but I know I have to be prepared for whatever surprises may be in store. I need to be able to do my job, regardless of any political currents or change in flight path that await us once we’re in the air.

Maybe I better pack an adapter…just in case.

We Do History

Mary Tarashuk

Mary Tarashuk teaches 4th grade at Wilson Elementary School in Westfield, New Jersey. Mary has been an educator for over 20 years. She has served as content writer and creative consultant for the national, award-winning initiative The Walking Classroom since its inception in 2005. Mary’s work has been published in Education Digest and was honored with the SmartBrief Education 2016 Editors’ Choice Content Award. Trying to balance her old-school teaching style with New Age methods that integrate ever-changing technology keeps her on her toes. She believes that fresh air and exercise enhance learning and engage students of all ages. Follow her on Twitter @maryrightangle and visit her personal blog (launched in 2021) Behind the Doors of the Teacher's Room for some adult conversation.

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