By: Tiffany Wincek, Product Liaison

Every year, as July melts into August, my thoughts return to learning. It’s been four years since I last taught in a classroom of my own, but after spending so much time in the education field, I’ve grown accustomed to a midsummer mental shift. I taught in New York, where the school year ended in late June and rarely resumed until after Labor Day, giving educators an ample number of weeks to rest and recharge. I’d spend the end of June immersed in professional development, while July was spent visiting family and trying to relax.

The beginning of August marked the halfway point: I’d start thinking about how to organize the desks in my classroom, which lessons needed a little more hands-on and a little less lecture, and which word would focus my efforts that year. If you’re not familiar with the concept of setting a one-word mantra , I recommend the practice.

In a recent Weekly Tip (if you haven’t yet checked them out, I post a Twitter tip related to digital literacy, classroom engagement, or education in general every Monday), I asked my followers which word would shape their thoughts this school year. Simplify sprang to my mind first. If I were still teaching, I think that’s what I’d choose.

Why simplify? It would serve as a good reminder to not overcomplicate my lesson plans and to make sure that each lesson could be stripped down to a few basic concepts. The same idea could also apply to my assessments: Was a tricky question on a test a valid evaluation of learning or something that might needlessly trip up a student? A cue to simplify would also help me pare down which resources I would use with my students, from texts to apps (the latter a project that could rightfully bleed into my personal life).

Simplify also brings with it its cousin, simple, a word that would call to mind the quieter moments of the school year and prompt me to embrace those simple pleasures. I always loved the few days I’d spend in my classroom before the students returned. The building filled with a quiet calm soon to be broken by the joyous clamor of friends reuniting after summers spent apart. I’d sit at my desk and fill out a yearly planner in which I wrote my students’ birthdays, important school events, Regents exam dates, and holiday breaks (of course!). In a digital world, I enjoyed having an analog method of tracking the year in one place. If you’re anything like me, then I highly recommend downloading OverDrive’ beautiful, full-color planner from the Resource Center. Not only does it map bookish holidays and events, but it also provides engagement strategies and examples to help you and your students with your digital literacy initiatives.  

Here’s wishing you a wonderful school year. May your pencils be evenly sharpened, your bulletin boards visually stunning, your Wi-Fi signal strong, and your students excited to learn.