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Pre-Conference Work and Materials

How do we best prepare to navigate our first year?

Getting Ready!

Things to do now - Conference:

  • Take the Typefinder Personality Test. Record your top 3 types on the survey linked below. We will use your results and your survey answers to ensure (as best as possible) that our cohorts contain a variety of personalities - much as your classrooms will this fall.

  • Use this link to complete the personal survey. Be sure to tell us your personality types!  


Things to do now - School:

  • Doing as much preparation as possible this summer will help you navigate this first year successfully as so much will be new and there is so much to do. 

  • Communicate with your dean of faculty, division head, or department chair regarding the courses you will be teaching and the books and other materials you will be using.  You should have those already.  If you don’t, please ask for them now.

  • In addition to course titles and books, ask your department chair and/or new department colleagues for copies of the course goals for the courses you will be teaching as well as copies of previous syllabi for the courses, old tests, final exams, alternative assessments, rubrics, sample lesson plans, curriculum maps, etc.  The more materials you can get your hands on, the easier your transition will be.

  • If you will be teaching the same course as a colleague, ask to be in touch with that person and start asking questions about all aspects of the course. Don’t be afraid to start at the very beginning: “How do you open class the first day?” “What do your students call you?” “How do I take attendance?”

  • Ask also for copies of the faculty handbook, student handbook, daily schedule, school calendar, etc.  Many of these will be online.  Bookmark those, read them carefully, and bring any print copies with you to the conference.

  • Review the school calendar carefully and note any conflicts that exist between school and personal commitments (weddings, major anniversaries, etc.). 

  • Start reading your course materials now.  As you read, note which topics you know well and which you will need to investigate/research further.  Make a plan to do this research over the summer. Questions in this area are also good to share with your instructional coach at the conference.

  • If you will be coaching for your school, speak with your athletic director about any sports for which you will be responsible each season.  If they are sports you know well – have played a great deal, coached some, etc. – start to sketch out practices by recalling favorite drills, etc.  Let your athletic director know if there is equipment you will need.  If you are relatively new to the sport, ask if there are camps you can attend – even as an observer.

  • Speak to the dean of students or your division head/associate head about your other responsibilities (advisory, clubs, chaperoning events, etc.).  Ask if there are things you can do over the summer to prepare.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Ask, ask, ask.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.


Things to think about:

If you are hungry for information and eager to get started, the following might be helpful.


Lesson Design

Grant Wiggins’ and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design

Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast on Backwards Design

Joe Feldman’s Grading for Equity

Grant Wiggins - Seven Keys to Effective Feedback


Learning and the Brain

Peter Brown's Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast of an interview with Peter Brown

Zaretta Hammond’s Coaching for Instructional Equity (video)


Growing our DEIJ Awareness

Liz Kleinrock’s Teach and Transform (Instagram thread)

Liz Kleinrock’s TED Talk How to Teach Kids to Talk about Taboo Topics (video)

*If you are interested in hearing directly from Liz and some of her colleagues, she will be the keynote speaker at a CAIS event on July 29. Register here for The Future of Learning Is Now! 

Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

Race and Healing: A Body Practice (podcast)

Layla F. Saad’s Become a Good Ancestor (podcast)

Jen Cort’s Third Space (podcast)

Jennifer Bryan’s Beyond Tomboys, Sissies, and “That’s So Gay” (article)

We Need to Talk about Anti-Asian Hate (video)

Harvard EdCast: Teaching Across a Political Divide

Beyond the Classroom (video interview with educator and author Matthew Kay - Not Light, but Fire) 

Additional Resources


I think these introduce you to some of today’s big questions in our teaching lives and work and help you begin to imagine how you might address some of them in your classroom.

Things to do about a week before the conference:

  • Follow this link - also at the end of this email - to the conference website.  Once there, go to the schedule and resources page.  In the left pane are links to all the readings for the week.  Read the articles and be prepared to discuss them.

  • Consider what you would like students to take from your class (content, big ideas about the world, skills, attitudes, lingering questions, and/or habits of mind). Ideally, how will students experience your class? How will it run? How will it feel? Finally, how will students "be" as a result of their time in your class? Share your hopes and dreams with your NENTS colleagues by posting them to this shared Google Doc. We will use these responses in one of our first sessions.

  • Watch the videos on the conference website to get a sense of what you will be asked to do yourself.  These are videos from the last few years’ conferences as well as some longer videos of teachers I have worked with over the years.  Consider which of them work for you and which don't.  What makes the difference? Do you think some of them would work for friends or family members who have different strengths?  Why?  How might these observations and reactions impact your work this coming year?

  • With your books and syllabi, begin to sketch out one lesson using the template (linked).  When planning, consider how this lesson fits into the big picture of your discipline/grade level.  How does it help your students develop skills or understandings that are central to your discipline or expected at your grade level?  

    • One hallmark experience of the conference is a videotaping exercise in which you will be asked to teach 5 minutes of a lesson you will design during NENTS. This is an exercise designed to build confidence and provide a springboard for more conversation about what happens in the classroom; it is NOT an evaluation of your teaching acumen.  Before the recording we will be working on lesson planning and effective methods of assessment, but it will behoove you to think about what you want to work on ahead of time.  

    • Please bring with you any materials necessary for this lesson (maps, manipulatives, other props, etc.). Bring along any written/published departmental standards, policies about grading, and any other school or departmental information that might help as you design your lesson.

    • You might like to talk with your department chair or co-teacher (if you have one) about choosing a chapter or unit of which your lesson will be a part.  

  • Consider also how you would like to structure your first day of class. What do you feel is important to accomplish and why? What do you want students to take away from that first meeting? Why? We will ask you to share your ideas on the last day of the seminar. Staff, instructional coaches and cohort members will provide feedback on this as well. 

  • Complete the attached travel form.

  • Most importantly, rest, relax, and remember why it was that you joined this profession – serving students, sharing a love of your discipline, saving the world, and more.  The idealism you bring to this work is so important to nurture and sustain, and it is ultimately what your students will remember most about their work with you.

Deeper Dive

Building Relationships with Students:

How to Improve your Practice:

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