The start of a new academic year is a time of promise and anticipation. Staff are feeling organised and energised. Students are feeling motivated and determined. Sadly, this nascent feeling does not always last. The question is then, how can you set about prolonging the honeymoon period?
Your working environment has an impact on you and your students. If the space is calm and inviting, both you and your students will benefit. The start of the year is a wonderful time in a classroom – everything is exactly where it should be, it is clean, the displays are perfect.
Do you remember the last day of term before the holidays? How were you feeling about your room at that time? Probably not as favourably as you feel about it today.
It is easy to not notice your room falling into a state you are not happy with. When you are tired and incredibly busy, it seems low on your to-do list. You could involve your form in weekly tidying sessions; re-stacking exercise books, re-fixing displays, giving your whiteboard a proper clean. If you have detention in your room, the participants could empty your recycling or organise your textbooks.
Little steps on a regular basis could keep your room looking ship-shape.
If you have a full set of schemes of work for the subjects you will be teaching, then you are one of the luck ones. Many of you will have a list of lesson titles, and a whole lot of planning. Share your planning with other teachers, you are not an island.
Try to organise a topic at a time so you know where you are heading. Think about creating short, medium and long term plans for your classes. That way you don’t end up missing things, or covering them in a sub-optimal order. Remember to highlight which ‘free’ periods are PPA and which you might get called for cover in – minimise unexpected shocks from that dreaded phone call.
Set up a central place (preferably on the network) so all subject teachers can add to and look at what has already been planned. There is little point re-creating the wheel each topic.
What ever you school policy on marking, it is vital to come up with a schedule for your marking. And stick to it.
There is always more than you think there will be. It is not just books that need marking but tests, assessments, homework, exams …
Get into the habit of recording in your planner when you have marked books and when you plan to take them in again. It can be take a bit of choreography to make sure that your students have their books for homework and revision whilst you also have adequate marking time. It might be worthwhile keeping a spreadsheet (or a paper list) of the dates you marked work for each class, and what sort of work it was. Management like evidence. This, however, is also useful to you for ensuring no classes slip through the cracks once term really gets going.
Your Parent Interactions
You first parents evenings are usually not too fear inspiring. However, as you approach the latter stages of the year it can be difficult to remember all the positives your students have demonstrated. You could keep a quick record in the register section of your planner when students do something noteworthy. Double up on the pages you allocate to each class in your planner so you can easily flip between academic record/attendance and your written notes. This will also make writing personal sounding yearly reports for your students a less daunting task.
Phone calls home can be really positive for you and your students. Try making as many positive calls as negative throughout the year, otherwise you can be left feeling that it is all bad news.
Notes in planners praising your students are motivational. As are sending post cards home to commend excellence. Allocate time once a week/month to send off a couple of post cards so that you maintain that constructive relationship.
Your Social Life
Have one. It is ever so easy to fall into spending all weekend planning/working/report writing…
Make plans. Meet friends for lunch every other weekend. Have a ‘date night’. Go visit your second-cousin-twice-removed because they live by the sea. If you have concrete plans then you have to take a break from work. It might seem like you have too much to do to socialise. But, you will return to work feeling refreshed and invigorated.
A happy relaxed teacher is a more effective teacher.