Waldorf Teacher Summer Planning
It’s the end of the school year and at the same time that I’m finishing up writing my reports, I’m also thinking about planning for next year.
(By the way, if you’re looking for some help getting those reports done, check out my 30 Days Till Summer Report Writing Guide. Many of you have supported the work I’m doing here on A Waldorf Journey by purchasing this guide and I’m getting all kinds of rave reviews!)
While I definitely love sitting down and imagining the year ahead, planning out rhythms, researching curriculum and planning lessons, when the sun is shining and the days are long and hot, it is difficult to resist the temptation to head outside.
So, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks to keep that planning motivation going.
Set up the environment.
I’ve found that if I take the time to create the perfect conditions for planning, I’m much more willing to dive into the task. My suggestions?
Set aside time.
I’ve found that my planning is far more effective if I sit down with my calendar and plan out my planning. I generally dedicate one week to planning each block. I don’t always stick to the schedule, but even if I take a little more time with one block or another, I have pretty consistently been able to plan through February during the summer. After February the breaks come pretty fast and furious, so planning for the rest of the year as I go works out pretty well.
Consider where and when you are doing your planning.
My favorite time to do my planning work is in the morning. I can usually get a couple of good hours of work in before the rest of my family wakes up. With hours of productivity behind me I can usually feel pretty good about taking the rest of the day to do something active in the summer sun. If I wait to get started planning until the afternoon, I can be pretty certain I won’t get anything done unless I get out of the house. Those are the days when I love my little local coffeeshop.
Immerse yourself in the environment.
One of the reasons I love attending my annual teacher training is that it puts me in a productive, Waldorf teacher planning environment. With 30+ other teachers in attendance and everyone in a productive, planning frame of mind, I can’t help but get lots of planning done. Even if you aren’t attending one of these summer training sessions, there are other ways to benefit from the motivation and accountability that happens when a bunch of teachers get together. Find an online support group or get together in person with colleagues or fellow homeschooling friends to support each other.
Join A Waldorf Journey’s Teacher Tribe Facebook group.
Check out Plan It Out – an online group coaching program for Waldorf home-schoolers, hosted by Jean Miller of Waldorf-Inspired Learning.
Get the supplies you need.
I readily admit to being a complete sucker for stationery and school supplies. While my children groan when the back-to-school stuff hits the shelves at Target, I quietly celebrate. I just love shopping for this stuff!
I have a finely developed palette when it comes to school and art materials, though, and I have no hesitations about indulging myself when it comes to the supplies I will use to plan my year. For me, there’s nothing more motivating than a beautiful new notebook, a set of sharp colored pencils and a smooth-writing fountain pen. Here are some of my favorites.
Pens and Pencils
I just added this Kakuno Pilot fountain pen to my collection and I absolutely love it! It’s the most affordable, consistently smooth fountain pen that I’ve come across and it’s the first thing I reach for for any writing task.
I’ve always said that my favorite colored pencils are the Lyra Super Ferbys, and that is still completely true, but I’m finding good use for this inexpensive set of Tombow colored pencils that I purchased last summer to test out. Though I ended up settling on the Lyra Polycolors for my students, I like having this little set around. Because the pencils are thinner than the Super Ferbys, they’re easier to carry around when you want to travel light in the summer. I’ve got a set of 12 and I just wrap a rubber band around them and go.
Notebooks and Planners
Every year there are three different books I use.
- A big sketchbook for curriculum planning. I usually buy this before I head off to my summer training and I use it all year long when I’m planning out blocks. I’ve got one for each grade and it goes right into my curriculum box at the end of the school year.
- A smaller notebook where I write my daily lesson plans, to-do lists and student observations. This also serves as my catch-all bullet journal type notebook. Anytime I have to write something down it goes into this notebook.
- A teacher planner. This is where I map out the week every Sunday.
I’m really happy with this system and I’m especially pleased with the books I’m using to plan the 2017–18 school year!
This Semikolon linen cover blank writing book is one of my favorite things this year. I love the classic look of the cloth cover and the creamy, watermarked paper. The texture of the paper is welcoming to both fountain pen and colored pencil, which is difficult to find! I really like using a lot of colored pencil illustration as I plan in the summer. It just makes the process so much more enjoyable.
This Clairefontaine My Essential notebook is my absolute favorite thing of the year and I think it is going to make my school year so much more organized next year! Here’s what I love about it.
* It’s the perfect little A4 size so it fits in my small school bag. I’m making a big effort to not carry a huge backpack to and from school every day next year.
* The paper is sooo smooth! I’ve found Clairefontaine paper to be the absolute best. I will buy any notebook this company makes. Pro tip: The notebook company Rhodia also uses Clairefontaine paper. See my previous review of the Rhodiarama notebooks. (I love those when I’m looking for a hardcover, but for daily use I like this new My Essential book even more.)
* The pages are numbered and there is a blank index in the front. This means that I can write on pages as I come to them and then mark the contents in the index. This will make finding those random child observation notes, parent conversation summaries and curriculum brainstorms so much easier to find!
* They come in a variety of colors. I will probably use 2–3 of these over the course of the year and I love the idea of choosing the color based on the season.
* The lines on the pages are perfectly laid out to mark the date and title at the top, with written notes below. Just perfect for my daily lesson planning. This will also make it so easy to flip through and find notes.
For years, this is the teacher planner I used. This past year was the first year in a long time that I didn’t run out and purchase my At-A-Glance Teacher’s Planner. This year I started using the bullet journal system for organizing my life and I wanted to use something similar for my weekly planning for school. I purchased a Clairefontaine French Ruled notebook for that weekly planning. This book also included my gradebook and attendance records. I found, though, that it wasn’t as effective as I would have liked and at a certain point in the year I stopped putting my block plan into that book, and wrote it in my daily lesson plan notebook instead.
I’m still a bit on the fence about what I’m going to do for next year. I have another Clairefontaine french-ruled notebook ready to go, but I’m really committed to carrying a small bag, and that notebook is full-size. I may still use it and just keep it at school. I’ll let you know.
If you are looking to get a traditional teacher planner, the At-A-Glance is the way to go. The layout makes sense and there are tons of pages in the back for record-keeping and notes.
Of course, the resource books that you’ll use to plan your year will depend a lot on the grade that you’re teaching, but there are a couple of books that I use every year in my planning and can’t imagine doing without.
This is my trusty “big yellow book” and I consult it when planning blocks and before I begin teaching every block, just for a refresher. It’s definitely a must-have.
I just love Teaching Children to Care and I go back to it for a little refresher every August. It’s a very practical book that gets me in the right frame of mind to guide my students’ social interactions. Another must-have.
Assertive Discipline by Lee Canter is another super-practical book that can get you back into classroom management mode. Lots of great in-the-moment tips.
My copy of A Handbook for Steiner-Waldorf Class Teachers has gone missing (I’ll have to re-order) but my recollection of this resource is that it is full of ideas for review activities, record-keeping templates and other practical tools. Another great one to check out.
Alright, I hope these tips make your summer planning an enjoyable experience! If you’d like more suggestions for supplies and resources that can support your work, subscribe to my email list and get my Grade-by-Grade Art Supply list. The supplies on that list can support your planning just as much as they support your students’ work throughout the year.