As much as I prefer to avoid being the voice of bad news, the days are getting shorter and the heat wave is definitely a thing of the past, which can only mean one thing – the new school year is looming large on the horizon.
On the one hand, there will be many teachers thinking of all the things they have yet to do before the new term, both at home and in terms of their classroom preparations. On the other, now can be an incredibly exciting time for teachers – a fresh start for the new year, a whole new class of pupils ready to be inspired and led to great achievements as well as an opportunity to try out new approaches, lessons or activities.
Above all else, I don’t think it’s possible to be too prepared for the new year. If you have time, spending as much as possible making sure you have everything ready for the arrival of your new class or classes is essential and can help make sure that you’re on the front foot from the start.
Here’s my top five tips for making sure that teachers are ready to get back to school this September: -
Celebrate the success of your previous class or students
Demonstrating to your new class what has been achieved in the past can help set the tone for what you expect from them, without making this an overt and daunting message.
If you have access to noticeboards in and around your classroom, then filling them at the beginning of term with photos, clippings or case studies of achievements from the past has the potential to really inspire pupils from the start.
By encouraging them to believe that they too can achieve great things, you can sometimes win half the battle in terms engaging them in both their lessons and the wider school community.
Make a plan or timetable for your admin tasks
The growing pressure on teachers’ time means that every second counts if you want to be able to give your students the attention and focus that you want. Much of that pressure comes from increasing requirements for administration, assessment and marking.
At SIMS, we offer a number of solutions designed to make everyday classroom life a little bit easier, but some well-structured planning can go a long way in this respect.
Once you have a decent idea of the length of time it will take to complete marking for your classes, committing to a dedicated period of time for getting the job done can help avoid leaving it to the last minute and becoming a giant task lurking on the horizon – giving you more time to focus on teaching.
Build a rapport with parents
Getting to know your pupils as early as possible is clearly a key task, but opening communications with their parents can also help greatly down the line.
If time allows, especially for those children who will be new to the school, it could help to setup a parents’ meeting early in the term to create an open platform for any questions that they may have to help reduce any anxiety. At the same time, this can be a great opportunity to work out how each parent prefers to be contacted and kept up to date, whether that be via digital tools such as apps or emails or more traditional ways including phone or the good, old-fashioned, school gate catch-up.
Use online toolkits, guidance and support
Whether you’re struggling for ideas on a particular topic or just checking that your latest big idea is along the right lines, the teaching community has always been a vibrant and supportive network and is very active on social media.
So, a quick search of the internet or Twitter can help massively in this respect, bringing to light advice and support that taps into the experience of teachers from all over the world. Whether you’re looking for lesson plans, guidance on dealing with pupil behaviour or even just somewhere to have a moan (something we all need to do from time to time!), there’s a vast array of different communities, all of which are easily found via a Google search.
Take stock from last year and build on your achievements
Before getting stuck into the tasks and challenges of the new year, there’s no better opportunity to take some time and look back on last year. This doesn’t necessarily mean naval-gazing into the minutiae of every class taught and topic or subject covered, but don’t overlook the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
Was there anything different that you tried which worked well or otherwise? If you’ve experimented with something a little different and it didn’t go quite as you’d planned, don’t forget that you’re working with a range of individual characters, so there could be a variety of reasons for how things went.
There’s bound to be things you can learn or could have done better – use that experience to guide your future plans rather than looking negatively at the outcomes and remember that everyone experiences ups and downs along the way.
And above all else…
Although this might seem a little trite, I would think that the most important focus for the coming weeks and months would be to make time for you. That might sound simpler than it actually is, but it can be really easy to find yourself on the hamster wheel of school life and struggling to keep going through it all.
If you can maintain some time for your own wellbeing and mental health, you’ll reap the rewards down the line, probably just before the Christmas break in my experience and ultimately retain the passion and drive that got you into teaching in the first place.
The clock is ticking and the new year is approaching fast – it can be a busy but exciting time of year, so good luck to everyone involved.