Monday, August 8, 2011

My summer vacation

We are only into our second week of August and yet fall is in the air. We haven't had much summer-like weather this summer, a lot of grey days and rain, and today is no exception, though the sun did make a brief appearance this evening. As I write this, black clouds are coming in from the east. We will probably get more rain tonight though tomorrow's forecast looks promising.

Along with the fall weather, back-to-school sales remind me that summer break is coming to a close. I have had a lovely vacation so far. I've spent the majority of my summer reading. My new e-reader has opened up a whole world of books that I hadn't had access to, well, not convenient access to anyway. I thought I wouldn't like it. My father passed it along to me when he got a newer, fancier device. I found it difficult to find good French books on the main e-book websites but this site has an excellent selection of French e-books. As with their print counter-parts, French e-books tend to be more pricey than the English ones.

Aside from reading, I've taken up writing again. After participating in NaNoWriMo in November for my third year in a row, I stopped writing on a regular basis, other than for school purposes. I missed writing but felt I couldn't make time for it, even though I had proved to myself in November that I could indeed make time if I wanted to. But the writing group that I had been apart of stopped meeting regularly and without that added motivation of a group I let my writing fall to the wayside. Plus, I didn't have any new ideas that wanted to be written. But then in June I met up with a former colleague who is in a small writing group for women. Another of the members is a good friend of mine. They invited me to join and I decided that it was time to get back into writing.

I love being part of the River Girls group. We meet once or twice a week for write-ins and meetings. We share our stories, we critique for each other, we laugh, we eat and most importantly, we encourage each other to write. I have learned so much from them and I feel like my writing has improved. This past month I have researched writing and even publishing websites. I have a plan to start a writing blog soon where I will write more about writing with tips like how you should not use the same word three times in a sentence ;)

When not reading or writing this summer, I travelled a little, mostly to visit my family and our annual camping trip up north to Caraquet. Vivre l'Acadie! I spent a little time in my garden, though not as much as I meant to because the weather dampened my desire to be outside. And of course I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the coming school year.

Most of my planning for the following year has been in my head so far. I daydream about ideas and do seating charts in my head while cooking dinner or in the passenger seat of the car (not while I'm driving, too distracting). When August began, I started to revisit my favourite teaching blogs, resource sites and twitter streams to inspire my plans.

I feel very lucky to be returning to the same school again this year, the same classroom, mostly the same subjects and even mostly students that I taught last year. As far as I know (and things could change), I will be teaching grade 5 again this year but there will be only one grade 5 class instead of two. This means that I will be teaching Intensive French for half the year and the English compacted curriculum for the other half of the year, same as I did two years ago. I'm excited to teach in English again. Though I love French dearly and enjoy helping students learn it, teaching in my first language has its joys as well that I missed last year. Like last year, I will also be teaching pre-Intensive French to the grade 4 students.

My grade 5's this year will be the grade 4's I taught pre-IF last year. Other than the students who transfer to our school, I will have taught all of them before. I look forward to getting to know them much better than I could when I only taught them a few hours a week. Knowing them already has pros and cons. On the upside, I have a sense of who they are, what the challenges will be, and I know what I taught them last year. On the downside, I have a preconceived notion of what they are like based on how they behaved last year. I don't have that clean-slate feel that I would have with an unknown class.

Tomorrow I plan to go over to the school and start setting up my physical space. At the end of the school year, we piled all the English materials into my room rather haphazardly and added two bookshelves as well. My class list so far has 24 students on it, 6 more than last year, so I need to discover the seating plans that will work well with my space. I imagine that I may spend some time sitting in my chair just looking at the classroom tomorrow. I might try out this on-line seating plan tool, as well. The rest of the week I'd like to tackle my bulletin boards (I'd like to paint the ones in the hall or put up fabric backgrounds) and I would like to re-organize my filing cabinet.

How have you been spending your summer vacation? What do you do during the summer to get your classroom ready? Please leave me a comment.


  1. I'm glad you're enjoying the writing group so well. :D It sounds like you've had a great summer and are preparing for a great fall. I'm going to check out the seating plan link you posted. Are there a lot of free online teaching tools like that?

  2. There are a ton of on-line tools and on-line resources. I would suggest following some of the education hashtags on twitter. Some of the general ones are #edchat and #TeachChat and there are also #elemchat and I'm sure there are some for specifically ESL as well. Check out some of the people I follow. There are tons of ESL teachers on there.