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Preparing Your Classroom After Summer Break

Prepping your classroom before the “big day” may be a bigger help than you realize. Classroom preparation help you feel settled and allows you to gather your thoughts. It also reflects the kind of safe, learning environment you provide and gives students a consistent environment from day one. The list below highlights some of the best things to do before you meet your students on the first day of classes.

Get Organized

Organization is your greatest ally. The first step you should always take to begin a new school year it to reorganize. Gather all unused material from the previous year, roundup lesson plans, and make sure you have everything you need to begin preparation for the new year. Once you have everything in place, you’ll know what you need and what you already have. After that, it’s time to start preparing for the new year ahead.

Shop for Supplies

Now that you’ve gone through last year’s supplies and salvaged what you could, it’s time to shop for this year. You’ll need to stock up on pencils and pens, not only for yourself, but for unprepared students. Do not be afraid of having too many supplies. You’ll most certainly need more than you think and anything left over can be used for next year.

Plan Ahead

It’s never too early to start planning your lessons. If you get ahead of lesson planning, it will make the first few weeks a much easier transition. Try to plan out the first three weeks of class. You’ll thank yourself down the line and you will be more prepared for the unexpected because the stress of lesson planning will be gone!

Learn Names ASAP

Try to learn names as soon as you can. Hopefully, your school portal includes school pictures from the year before. If they do, you can study up early in order to let those names sink in before you even officially meet your classes. Plus, learning and knowing names early sends a loud and clear message. You care. This message will resonate in a way that can really make a difference for your students.

Set Up Classroom

Setting up your classroom involves a ton of things. Before the first day of school you’ll want to redecorate, rearrange furniture to best accommodate your teaching style, as well as designating places for supplies. Doing all of this before the first day of classes will be a huge help. Your students will arrive the first day to an environment that is welcoming and will be consistent overall.

How to Keep Your Child Fresh During the Summer

The summer months are something students look forward to all year. Teachers love their summers off too, but they do worry that come September, there will be a lot of time spent on reviewing information from the year before. To help combat the dreaded brain drain, here are a few tips parents can use to keep their kids fresh and their teachers sane come September.

Read, read, read!

Our students should never stop reading, but it doesn’t have to feel like a chore! Summer reading should be fun. In order to keep summer reading fun and light, discuss with your child things they would enjoy reading about and pick books out together. This way you can push them to challenge their boundaries, but also make it fun for them!

Make Use of Teachable Moments

Summer learning doesn’t have to be “boring” or forced! Take advantage of the teachable moments that happen in everyday life. When you are on summer vacation, have your child research some of the places they want to visit and give a little report as to why. Another idea is to have your child come up with a budget for grocery shopping and then let them help you stick to it. Have fun with it and your kids will too!

Start a Journal

Have your child start a summer journal so they can look back at all the fun they had over the summer. They will be able to practice writing without it feeling like “homework.” If it helps, journal together and read passages to your kids to share different perspectives on the summer activities.

Use Technology

There are plenty of free, fun educational games out that you can bust out on rainy summer days. Have them play a fun strategy game on their smartphone to develop critical thinking. Surf the web for different educational games to introduce to your kids. Most of these games are fun and your kids will have a blast.

Play outside

There are educational moments right in your own backyard. Talk to your kids about the mini ecosystem that thrives in your yard. The bugs, animals, plants, and even your kids all play a part in an exciting circle of life that goes on around us all the time. Plus, fresh air and exercise are important parts of the school curriculum, so why not add it to the summer one too.

Continuing learning during the summer months will make the transition back to school easier for kids and teachers alike. Taking time to make sure they continue to learn will instill a thirst for knowledge that will carry them throughout life.

What is STEM? Understanding Education for Global Leadership

STEM education is an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to learning that provides hands-on  learning experiences for students. STEM goes beyond the mere transfer of knowledge, it engages students and equips them with critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills. STEM ultimately establishes connections between the workplace, school, the community, and the global economy.

As explained by the California STEM learning network, STEM is defined as an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. STEM focuses on these areas of learning for student success because such fields are an essential part of learning and growing in everyday life.

According to the U.S. Department of Education “STEM is more that a school subject surrounded by periodic tables and mathematical charts”. It is an approach to the world and a critical way to understand and engage with the world around you.

Chad Smith Principal picture of plastic head showing veins

However, few students today pursue careers in STEM fields because their is a stigma that the level of knowledge required within the field is extremely difficult. Moreover, there is also a limited amount of teachers who are skilled in STEM fields thus resulting in fewer numbers for both students and teachers who are in the field.

Since the start of the implementation of STEM programs which was originally created by Judith A. Ramaley, people have questioned the program’s ability to teach all students equally. It has been proven in recent studies that the education system has tailored its teaching standards to the abilities of female students, thus resulting in critics to believe that STEM programs are biased when teaching.

Although this is a touchy argument to hold, all students who decided to take on STEM benefit from the program and its ability to create global leaders for change. STEM not only teaches students about independent innovation, but it also teaches them to explore the depths of all subjects and utilizing the skills needed to implement change, creativity, and collaboration.

STEM Statistics

A study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicated that 40% of all U.S. students test at or below basic level in math. 50% of U.S. students test at or below basic in science and 30% of high school students taking math and physical science courses have teachers who did not major in those subjects or who are not certified to teach those courses.

These statistics lead to the common misconception that STEM programs are difficult to uphold. Knowing these statistics can help lead to a resurgence on global technology and leadership.

Chad Smith Principal desk with mac computer, speakers, and coffee

In regards to STEM and college degrees, more STEM degrees are needed to fill the demanding jobs of technology, science, and mathematics. The STEM education statistics highlight the fact that people with a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering have the highest starting salaries. The median salary is usually more than double that of the median salary of the total U.S. workforce.

Significant advances in technology have produced nearly half of all U.S. economic growth in the past years and continues to grow. By 2020, there will be more than half of the baby-boomer generation will retire, leaving all those professional science and technology jobs open for qualified candidates.


The advantages of taking on a STEM program for students are endless. STEM goes beyond the mere transfer of knowledge and academia. STEM engages students and equips them with critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills which in turn will create leaders for global change and innovation.

Math Anxiety: What is it?

Mark H. Ashcraft defines math anxiety as “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance.” Many students today feel some degree of math anxiety. It is a common occurrence in the classroom, but what has led to such negative feeling surrounding math?


Math anxiety is developed in many ways, but the most common causes are from the pressure of timed tests, a fear of embarrassment in front of peers, and the overall class structure. Times tests cause extreme anxiety based on a student’s skill level and their test taking skills. Students who are not excellent mathematicians and are not great test takers create a perfect storm of anxiety within themselves. The anxiety is caused by having to quickly and efficiently move through tests.

Another factor in math anxiety is the fear of embarrassment, especially in front of peers. No one enjoys being embarrassed, but high school and middle school students are especially susceptible to this type of anxiety. Students who are not strong in mathematics are going to have a hard time being engaged in class due to the fear of being wrong and furthermore embarrassed in front of their fellow classmates.

Class Structure also plays into math anxiety. If students do not feel they have a high level of success or that the teacher tolerates wrong answers, then they will never feel comfortable. In order the change math anxiety, we need to look at classroom culture.

Cycle of Failure

Math anxiety leads to a self fulfilling prophecy or “cycle of failure.” Essentially, students who have not done well with math in the past begin a cycle that continues their anxiety. The cycle include the following recurring situations:

  • Negative experience with math
  • Avoiding Math
  • Poor Preparation
  • Poor Math Performance

This cycle can continue to repeat until the particular student or teacher intervenes. Unfortunately for many students, this does not happen.


Math anxiety has many symptoms that teachers may be able to pick up on and offer solutions to the problem. Some of the most common symptoms of math anxiety are:

  • Decrease in self-confidence
  • Negative self talk
  • Student thinking they are the only one to feel this way

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, or a general hesitation towards math, open a dialogue with that particular student. As an educator, it is your job to curb math anxiety and make math interesting for each student.

How to Cope

Math anxiety is not an incurable issue. With the proper care and attention, math anxiety can be remedied. Working towards math free of anxiety begins with preparation. Students need to be adequately prepared for lessons and tests to even begin to combat the anxiety they have become so accustomed to.

Additionally, when preparing, student need to understand the concepts and not just memorize answers. Mathematics is an application based subject and regurgitating formulas will not do the trick. Students need to understand why formulas work and how the lessons are applied to direct situations.

Working in groups is also a great way for students to begin to overcome math anxiety. Students who are paired with others who have a stronger understanding of the subject can make for a great experience. The student suffering from math anxiety may actually feel more comfortable asking questions in a small group than in front of the class or approaching the teacher.

In order to make math palatable for students, we as educators need to come up with new innovative ways to get these students engaged and out of the cycle of failure. All students can succeed with the proper attention and care.