Teacher Voices: “Recharge in June, Refocus in July” Is Good Advice for Novice and Veteran Educators Alike (Elisabeth Burns, Vestavia Hills)

This summer, ABPC Program Coordinator Emily Strickland is asking a selection of teachers engaged in our statewide educator networks to let us know how they’ll be spending their summer break. Ninth grade English teacher Elisabeth Burns will get serious about new professional learning in July, including four weeks interning in school libraries as part of her master’s work.

Elisabeth Burns
Ninth Grade English
Vestavia Hills High School

1) What books are you reading this summer?

 I recently been on a nonfiction binge, so I just finished Condoleezza Rice’s book Extraordinary, Ordinary People. Now, I’m reading Delia Owens’ Where The Crawdads Sing to see what all the fuss is about.

I usually spend June reading books for pleasure, and then I start reading books for school and professional learning come July. I haven’t settled on a particular book or books yet, but I’ll definitely have “academic voice” on my mind as I search (see #3).

2) How will you be continuing your professional learning this summer?

 I am currently working on a Masters’ Degree in Library and Informational Sciences, so I will spend four weeks this summer interning at different school libraries. I will also attend a four-day workshop with my ninth grade English team.

3) What reflection process do you use to think about the past year and plan for the next?

 At the end of every school year, I look at the data from my large assessments, and I examine the trends. For example, I know that writing with academic voice was a struggle for my students even at the end of the year. Clearly, my instruction did not achieve the desired result, so I will plan ways to incorporate more diverse and more extensive instruction in this area throughout the entire year in 2019-20.

4) What advice would you give a first year teacher on how best to use their first summer as a way to prepare for the next school year?

 Many new teachers have just finished their college work. June is your month to recharge. Do things you love, and let yourself get bored. By the time July approaches, you’ll be ready and refreshed to plan your year.

As a first year teacher, focus on management and organization. Think about the routines you want your students to have. Consider how you want them to enter and exit the classroom, where you want your papers to go, how many times a week you want to check grades and contact parents, how you will approach discipline problems, etc. If your classroom is not effectively managed, even the most brilliant lesson can fall flat.

After you’ve thought through the basics, reach out to team teachers and see what resources and curriculum guides are already available to you. Your first year is truly overwhelming, so I’d suggest following the “tried and true” methods of your coworkers. Your second year, you can focus on making more of the content and teaching strategies your own.

Elisabeth Burns has taught for six years and is currently teaching at Vestavia Hills High School as a ninth grade English teacher. She is a former Teach for America corps member and is working on her Masters’ Degree in Library and Informational Sciences from The University of Alabama.