Wednesday, August 2, 2017


While in college, one of my Professors shared a quote that really stuck with me. "Failing to plan is planning to fail" (originally said by Alan Lakein). Partly out of fear, I was forced to take a hard look at my organization style and the way I planned. I've always been a planner by nature, but I realized that when it comes to my success as an educator, and my students success, planning is vital. Because I like to look through things with a more positive lens, I've coined a term of my own. We must "plan for success." It is very rare that success falls into our laps, especially when it comes to lesson planning and scheduling things school-wise. Therefore, we must plan for it!

Planning can be a very personal experience. We all have our own styles and preferences -- which is something to celebrate!! If you're anything like me though, it helps to get some ideas from other people that I can draw from, tweak, and make my own. Today, I am sharing some of my planning "procedures" and techniques. I'll also be sharing how I utilize my teacher planner. Find what works best for YOU! Maybe that's planning electronically, maybe you already have a planner that you love. I'll show you how I use my favorite planner, the Erin Condren Teacher Planner, and share some other tips I use to plan for success. 

Tip #1: Find a planner you LOVE
For me, it's my Erin Condren Teacher Planner. But you might have another planner tool that you love. Figure out what your favorite planner is. This might take a few years of trial and error. But find a planner that brings you joy and makes your planning life easier to manage. Whichever planner you choose think of it as an investment. I'm okay with spending more for my planner because it is the one school supply that I truly can't go without! It has everything in it and I get a lot of use out of it so I can totally justify the cost. I'm going to show you some pictures of my planner for this year. I am in the process of setting it up still and will update this post throughout the school year with pictures of my planner as it gets more filled in. 
I love my EC Teacher Planner, but I do want to mention that if you go to buy one today, this is not the one you will find online. I bought this planner in the spring right before her newest designs were released because this one was on sale (part of how I justify the cost of a pretty planner). The newest design for the EC Teacher Planner is absolutely gorgeous!! Thicker paper, fresh designs, new stickers, and so much more. I already can't wait until next spring when I can order it.

Tip #2: Open up your planner and get acquainted with it
This step is hard for me, because I usually want to open it up and start writing in it and using the pretty stickers right away! Patience, young padawan. Take time to open it up, look through all of the pages, get acquainted with it. In the back of your mind start assembling a game plan of how you want to fill it out and start using it. 
Something really handy about my planner is that this inside front cover is a great place to jot down to-do's, doodle, or write a quote from a training or meeting that really impacted you. I write in Fine-Tip Sharpie so that it doesn't rub off on the other side. It wipes off easily with whiteboard cleaner or water. 

Tip #3: Make the planner work for YOU!
It might take some time to figure out your planning style. You might find a planner that works well for you, but realize that you don't use some of the sections as much as the others. That's what happened to me. I realized that I didn't really use the "Happy Birthday" section in my planner beyond writing everyone's name and birthday the first week of school. My school uses an electronic grade book that sends us notifications of when our students birthdays are, so although this page was super adorable, I never really used it. This year, I am repurposing these pages to be a place where I can jot down Blog Post inspirations, plans, and ideas. I was also thinking I could use it to track which apps (or learning platforms) I am teaching to my students during which months and how we are using them. It's all about figuring out what works best for you and your teacher style.

Tip #4: Get your hands on your District's calendar
The very first things I block out in my calendar are days off, PD Days, half days, conferences, and any other important district events. I block out those days using the stickers provided by Erin Condren, fun washi tape, and other stickers. This is a HUGE tip for planning for success. You want to make sure that you know all of those important dates at the beginning of the year so that you can be mindful of how you need to schedule and plan your lessons, events, and time to make the most of it and avoid double-booking or forgetting something. 
As you can see below, on my monthly calendar pages, I've already blocked out the days and times where I have conferences, days off, end of term, day grades are due, etc. based on my school district's calendar. I'll fill in more specifics when I have them, but for now I know which days need to be blocked out so I don't double book myself or forget what's coming up. Any time I get an email from my Principal or a meeting invite, I pencil it in to my monthly view and then I go back and make a pretty sticker for it. 
(P.S. One of my biggest, recurring nightmares is that I forget it's the first day of school or an important meeting or something and I show up late or forget to show up at all. These stickers keep that terrifying dream from becoming a reality!)

Tip #5: Loosely plan out a scope & sequence for the school year
Now that you know when each term ends and you have all of your breaks blocked out, fill in your weeks with a basic scope and sequence. I do this on loose leaf paper that I stick in the pouch at the back of my planner. I look at my days and weeks and decide which standards I should be teaching by the end of each quarter, jot down lesson ideas, and which types of lessons I'll do each week. You can get as specific with this as you want. I do this to plan for success -- but I also know that sometimes as a teacher I have to be flexible. Sometimes my students need to review a concept in more depth than I had anticipated, or they're ready to move at a faster pace. Planning this out loosely gives me the freedom to know where I'm going, but not have to be nailed down to going at a specific rate. Having a scope and sequence in my planner helps me to make sure I'm getting through the content I need to before testing and helps me to be successful. 

Tip #6: Add a little flair
This is where you can really flaunt your teacher style. I love to add little stickers, inspirational (or thematic) quotes, and color to the pages of my planner. It makes my planner more aesthetically pleasing, but it also boosts my mood to have the flair I added greet me when I open up my monthly spread.

Tip #7: Write stuff down!
I know that you are doing awesome things in your class!! You have great ideas and sometimes you even whip up something on the spot -- a true "teachable moment" -- without even having to plan for it! Go back and write it down. I know this seems annoying. I know you feel like you'll remember it. Trust me, I've felt those things. But then I got busy and forgot all about my brilliant idea. Plan things ahead of time. Write bullet points (or more detailed notes, it's all about YOUR planning style) for your lessons ahead of time as your planning, but go back and jot something down to yourself. Write down that amazing thing you did spontaneously. Have a lesson plan backfire, that's okay. Write it down. This will do two things:
1. It will make you reflect. What went well, what didn't? How could you change it to make it even better? This doesn't have to be long to be effective. Just take a few moments to cognizantly reflect and jot it down. 
2. You will see it when you plan next year. This is another one of the reasons I view my planner as such a good investment. I save them every year, and look back as I'm loosely doing my scope and sequence (usually during summer) the next year. If you write a little note to yourself about a lesson it will spark your memory so that you can rock that lesson the next year. 

Tip #8: Keep a hard copy of your grades
I use this Student checklist every day. I use it to track who has/hasn't turned in permission slips, who I've chosen for student of the week, and much more! Just turn the page, and you'll find that I keep a hard copy of all of my grades for each term. Even though my school uses an online grade book, I'm old school and love to log scores here before inputting them online. 
Bonus Tip: I write down my scores and assignments in Flair pens. (They don't bleed through. Bless!) I correspond the color I use to the type of assignment. All Reading assessments are logged in red, Math assessments in magenta, Reading projects in teal, Math homework in orange... you get the idea. Is my nerd showing?

Tip #9: Use you planner for more than just a calendar and lesson plans
So I mentioned at the beginning of this post that my planner is MY LIFE. I not only use it as my calendar, lesson plan holder, and grade book... I use it for many other things:
- I store my school supplies receipts, example report card, and handouts from meetings/trainings in this two-sided pouch. That way, when I need to go back to reference something I have it right there! Whether I'm in my classroom, at home, or off campus in a meeting I have everything I need. 
- I keep a copy of all of my ELA and Math standards in one of the plastic sleeves in my planner. It's so easy to find any standard I need.
- I keep a copy of my District Calendar and my Daily Schedule in another one of the plastic sleeves in my planner. 

Planning things out takes time, but trust me friends it is SO worth it. I have saved my planners every year since student teaching so that I can look back on my lessons, ideas, and reflections. This process has not only made me more efficient at planning over the years, but it has also truly made me a better teacher. 

If you are interested in getting a pretty Erin Condren Teacher Planner of your own, please click on this link to get some money off of your first purchase:

Have fun planning for success,

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