Habit #2: Preparing to teach
Welcome back to our series on the 5 Habits of Highly-Effective Co-Teachers. Like it or not, this season has made homeschoolers and co-teachers of us all! While we typically spend several days preparing our collaborative community of ACS Co-Teachers about how to fulfill their role during the school year, we thought it might be helpful to share some of that content with all of the new co-teachers that are learning this new skill of homeschooling.
If you didn’t catch our previous post, Habit 1: Stewarding your time well, be sure to read through that if you can, as it has a lot to do with today’s topic, Habit 2: Taking the time to prepare to teach.
That’s right – we’re still talking about time! What a gift time can be when used well!
We realize that every school is approaching this season differently, so some of these items might not apply. However, our hope is that by outlining some key practices with regard to preparation, this will set you on a course to succeed in your new role as a homeschool instructor (and yes, you can add that to your resume!).
First and foremost, realize that teaching takes time. Teaching well takes even more time. Setting aside time to prepare to teach is a habit that, if developed, will pay off in huge ways. The steps below will take you through preparation, instruction, and reflection, and each one of those components will hopefully help your days and weeks go well.
So without further ado, let’s talk about how taking time to prepare to teach might look:
- Read the lesson plans and teacher’s manual (if you have access to it) before you teach. It’s simple, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. While classroom teachers develop lesson plans weekly, this new reality of writing them for parents to use is likely a new world for most. The lesson plan is your map for the week: it will let you know where you’re going and will tell you how to get there. (If you’re lucky, there might even be treasure at the end!)
We realize that you might not have access to the teacher’s manual, but if you do, there is valuable information there that can help you fill in where you might be uncertain, answering questions like “How do I introduce that concept?”, or “How do I teach this when I didn’t learn it this way?”. Most of us in this co-teaching role are not formally-trained educators, and that’s OK. Asking for help or searching online for resources are great ways to build some teaching skills.
Reading through the Lesson Plan before you teach is critical to stewarding your time well. Knowing the topics that you’ll cover before you introduce them to your students will help your instructional time go more smoothly. Taking this time to prepare allows you to determine what subjects might be best taught early in the day, or while your littles are napping. You might even realize that there’s something that you really enjoy and can look forward to sharing with your student!
- Gather and organize your supplies: once you’ve thoroughly (and possibly repeatedly) read through the Lesson Plans (and textbook pages, and worksheets, and teacher’s manual), it’s time to gather the things you’ll need to teach. Again, it sounds simple, but you might be surprised at how taking the time to mark pages, find usable pencils with erasers, and print off all the pages will actually save you time later when you’re in the middle of your instructional time.
So pull out the textbooks you’ll need. Mark the pages you’ll be referencing. Print the worksheets that you’ll use and organize them in ways that make sense to you. Is there work ahead that requires colored pencils? Grab them now and make sure they are sharpened. Is there an art project that will require copious amounts of tape? Set that aside before you need it.
Organize your homeschool supplies like a chef would their kitchen: mise-en-place (French for “put in place”). Scrambling around in the middle of instructional time looking for a sharpened pencil or a misplaced workbook has the tendency to derail your day quickly.
- Consider a routine: we realize that your homeschool might not march along to the precision of a school bell, and that is in no way the expectation with this suggestion. But take a look at the different components of your day and consider what areas might benefit from a little routine.
If everyone tends to wake up around the same time, spending time around the breakfast table together before the day starts could be a nice way to establish the tone for your time together. Or if you have students that roll out of bed throughout the morning, consider having a touch-point over lunch.
Are afternoons dragging? What if you had read-aloud time with popcorn to look forward to every day? Or maybe having a celebration time at the end of the day if everything got completed?
Routine will look different for every family. Considering the season we’re in, having little spots in the day with some anchors might serve you well.
- Doing the work: there’s no secret sauce to having a smooth homeschool day. Every day will look different. Set your expectations accordingly, look for the joy, and hope for the best!
Teaching takes time, so guard that well. If you’re in a position to grade your student’s work, that takes time, too. There will also likely be times that you will need to re-teach a concept, and guess what? That takes time as well.
Keep Habit #1 in mind as you tackle the actual teaching: what are the “big rocks” that you need to work on first during your day? Tackling those early will help you and your crew feel like progress is happening, and that’s always something to celebrate!
Consider the type of student you have. Do they learn best while they are moving around? Great! Maybe review spelling words while playing a game of catch. They might be the kind of student that learns best using their hands. No problem – write those spelling words in shaving cream on a cookie sheet. You have the freedom to be as creative as you want to be with your lessons.
Your job during this season isn’t to recreate the classroom experience. Your homeschool is your classroom, so use it to your advantage when it comes to working through your lesson plans for the week. Taking the time to think through all of these facets in advance will allow for better days on the whole.
- Take time to reflect: you might be tempted to skip over this one, but doing so would rob you of some powerful lessons, both for you and your student. Take time to pause and think through your day or your week: what went well? What could be tweaked for next time? What are you thankful for? What contributed to a good day or a hard day? What was a complete fail? What was an unexpected surprise?
Taking the time to think back will allow you to see what changes you might consider for the future.
This is also a great conversation to pull your student into and get their thoughts. How did they think things went? What would they change for next time?
Well, that’s a full-enough list for today. Check back tomorrow as we tackle Habit #3: Rolling with the Punches (with grace and flexibility).