Students in the Saugerties Central School District return to the classroom on Tuesday, Sept. 6, a day signifying the end of another summer vacation and the beginning of something they may not realize until they’re much older – like in their 30s – they’ve been dreading for no good reason at all. For the teachers of Saugerties’ four elementary schools, and the junior and senior high, summer vacation is as much about preparing for the first day of school as anything else.
Rebecca Mulford teaches fourth grade at Grant D. Morse Elementary School. Though she’s only been in her classroom since early in August, she said preparations for the 2011-12 school year actually began well before then.
“June,” she said with a laugh. “Really, in June it’s a time for reflection for the students. And as teachers we look and say, ‘Next year I’m going to do this lesson a little differently.’”
Alexandra Gambino, a kindergarten teacher at Cahill Elementary, in the village, said preparations for how a subject will be taught one year can come almost immediately after they’ve been taught previously.
“I think about next year after every lesson or activity,” she said. “I reflect on how a lesson went and take notes on what to do for next year, how could it be better, differentiated, or note that this was effective keep it the same.”
When a teacher is able to actually begin preparing their classroom for the coming school year depends upon that building’s maintenance schedule. Repairs and upkeep are often scheduled for the summer to take advantage of students being off campus. Each classroom also undergoes a thorough cleaning, where all the furniture is removed, and the walls and floors brought back to life after months and months of kids doing everything within their power to mess them up.
“We come into our classrooms at different intervals during the summer,” said Mulford. “But the physical preparation begins in August.”
That physical preparation includes things like analyzing the colors used on a bulletin board, and deciding how much space will be set aside for student artwork. How will the desk be arranged, and how will the reading nook look? What will be used in the classroom in September is often considered many months earlier.
“In January we have to submit our order for next year’s supplies which is $200 for the whole school year,” Gambino said, adding that teachers will often supplement those needs during summer break. “I start watching the summer sales flyers to purchase needed classroom supplies.”
Each year is different, too. While many of the routines in preparing for a new school year are indeed routines, there are plenty of points to consider. Curriculum will change based on modern information or state and federal guidelines.
“Each year the students are different and so are their needs,” said Gambino. “I have yet to have two years taught the same way.”
Students are also welcomed back by some teachers before they even set foot in the classroom. Elementary school kids may already know who their teachers will be by the time this article is published, as letters were sent out less than a week ago. Some teachers like Mulford try to expand their pre-September welcome by filling their personal pages on the district website with information parents and students might find useful before the school year begins.