John Corbett, Maths Teacher at Writhlington Academy Trust, shares his top tips to help teachers prepare for the new school year.
One question I always get asked as a teacher is ‘how do teachers manage their work-life balance?’ The thought of six weeks away from school can sound appealing, but the reality is never quite that simple and often it can be hard for teachers to switch off from school life.
The summer holidays provide a valuable opportunity for teachers and support staff to recharge their batteries, spend time with family and catch-up on all the things that perhaps you don’t otherwise have time to do during the busy school year.
It can also be a good time to do little things to help you feel ready for your return to school in September, which may help you to relax a little more during your summer break. Here are some of my top tips to help you prepare for the new school term:
1. Do your research
Once you know which students you’re teaching, remember to do your research. From my own experience, I would recommended talking to the teachers who have taught them previously, as well as teaching assistants.
You’ll get vital information but they will also be able to provide useful tips and strategies that have worked for them which means you won’t be starting at square one. It could be something as simple as what the student’s interests and hobbies are, and you can then look to implement this in a fun way into a lesson to ease them into the new term.
2. It’s good to talk
Within the first week of returning to school, I call the parents of all the students to let them know how their children have been getting on. Having taught for 11 years, I find that during the first two weeks of the new school year, you can really build the momentum and encourage students to feel enthusiastic about being back at school. By relaying that home to the parents, it can help to set your expectations for the rest of the year.
It’s also important to start the beginning of September on a positive footing and establish that crucial teacher-parent partnership. If the parents have any questions or queries, it means that they will come directly to you, or if you have an issue to raise with them, they will still have that positive experience of talking to you at the beginning of the year.
3. The ‘wow’ factor
The way your classroom looks can inspire learning. Clearing out any clutter and giving your classroom a quick makeover, such as by displaying inspirational posters, can help to set the tone for the rest of the year. There are plenty of ideas on social media and teachers’ blogs for classroom displays that can provide inspiration.
Some ideas that I have implemented include a picture frame on each table that celebrates a student’s success, and wooden letters painted a vibrant pink colour which I’ve stuck across the wall to spell out ‘practice makes permanent’. The idea behind this saying is that you don't practice until you get it right, you practice until you cannot get it wrong.
This reinforces your mantra for the whole year and just a couple of days preparing your classroom, either before the summer holidays or towards the start of term, can pay dividends by creating a welcoming learning environment.
4. Many hands make light work
Things can get hectic over the course of the year and it’s important to work together with other teachers to provide you with that network of support. Share ideas with other teachers in your faculty, whether it’s lesson inspiration or physical resources such as books and worksheets.
If you have any new teachers starting in your department, make sure that you introduce yourself and let them know that you’re happy for them to come and borrow ideas. Likewise, if you are a new member of staff, get to know everyone in your department and ask them if they have lesson plans and resources you can borrow which might come in handy.
5. Get online
I’ve found that social media has been one of the best sources of continuing professional development (CPD) over the last few years. There are thousands of likeminded people online and it’s great to get fresh ideas from other colleagues and build up that network of contacts to borrow ideas and resources from.
With the summer holidays almost here, now is a perfect time to create a profile on Twitter and start following some of these fantastic teachers; take the time to talk to people and share your own thoughts. There are so many ideas that I’ve used at school where students and other colleagues will say it’s fantastic and they’ll ask me how did I think of that. Sometimes I’ll lie and say it took me ages!
I hope you found these tips helpful and please do share your own experiences of preparing for the new school year or leave a question in the comment section below.