What I would like to focus on this week is planning for your half term week. Whilst it is important to spend some time next week ensuring you are organised and ready for the next half term, it is also crucial that you establish some good working habits in relation to school holiday periods from the outset.
If you hadn’t already realised, you will by now be aware that learning to teach is hard work and incredibly time consuming! The current climate for teachers is not always an easy one – changes to systems and policies have come thick and fast in recent years, there is a climate of performativity in schools and a need for progress to be seen and measured on, what often feels like, a daily basis. To be successful in this context it is of paramount importance that teachers look after themselves so that our pupils are working with happy and healthy teachers who are enjoying their job! A key way of doing this is to make the most of holiday periods, organising your time in such a way that you start the next period of school time well prepared and ready to go, but also well rested and ready to take on the next challenges.
With this in mind, let’s consider what is important for you in order that you keep hold of your ideals and, not just survive, but thrive as a beginning teacher. You need to:
- remind yourself of what you are doing well;
- remind yourself of what no longer seems scary and is becoming second nature;
- look after your own well being;
- see yourself as part of a community of educators and through this community get support and self-affirmation.
So, some challenges for you for this coming half term:
Celebrate what you have achieved so far:
Look back at early reflections:
- What has changed?
- What ideas have solidified?
- What thoughts do you now feel confident about?
It doesn’t matter if there are lots of things that still feel unanswered. Just find one thing in relation to teaching that you now feel you can confidently articulate your current views on. Notice how your ideas have grown since the start of the course!
What are you not worrying about any more?
Were you worried about meeting all the staff at your school? You have met them now and worked alongside them!
Were you worried about teaching your first lesson? You have done it, you’ll never have to teach your first lesson again! Perhaps it went really well, perhaps it didn’t – it doesn’t matter, you have taught it and have things to work on for next time!
Identify three things that have gone well in any teaching episodes you have had:
- Write them big on your wall (remember the post its!)
- Tell people what you have been good at
- Take your partner or kids out for a meal to celebrate what you have done ….
It doesn’t matter how small these achievements are, the important thing is to focus on them!
Plan your time:
As soon as this period away from University and school starts, look at the jobs you have got to do and formulate a plan of attack:
- Write a list of everything that needs doing, however small
- Record when each job needs to be done by and who needs to see it (e.g. a tutor, a mentor, a class teacher)
- Reorder your list so you prioritise jobs that need doing sooner
- Consider each job and assign it a realistic time scale – this is crucial. If you are planning a starter activity then you should be aiming to have done this in a much shorter period of time than if you are planning a full lesson
- Be very strict on the amount of time you spend looking for a resource or lesson idea. Hours can be lost on the internet looking for the ‘perfect’ lesson and ending up with nothing. Be very clear with yourself about what you want to teach and achieve and only look at things that fit your requirements. As soon as you find one or two things that could work, STOP! Invest your time in making them work and fit your needs. This will result in a much better lesson then spending ages finding a slightly better resource but having no time to really plan how you are going to use it
- Once you have a time scale for each job look at your week – if you are left with no time off then return to your list and be stricter with your timescales!
Having planned the jobs that need doing, identify some time that focuses on nothing to do with teaching – this is absolutely crucial and you need to find a way of making this happen even if you feel you have so much to do you need to work all week!
The crucial thing, once you have identified this time is ensuring you properly take it …
Decide whether you want to take the time as a bulk or spread out over the week
- How will you make sure you stop working?
- What will you do with this time?
Plan activities and make them happen – doing something with others is a good way of doing this. Tell family/friends that you are not allowed to cancel on them or rearrange!
Make sure this time is guilt free
There is no point in allocating time if, throughout it, you are thinking about what needs doing for the course and not switching off!
Make sure you have stuck to your time scales and plans for work so that you do not need to think about work in this time.
Let others help you
Agree some ground rules for this time, e.g.:
- You must not look at the Internet for teaching resources
- You must not discuss the course
- You must not look vacant and not listen to the other person (because you are thinking about work)!
Agree how they will challenge you if you break the rules!
If you have children…
Consider calling the time something special – e.g. ‘golden time’
Make sure they know the rules and allow them to tell you off if you don’t adhere to them.
Force yourself to enjoy your time with your family – you will only end up feeling guilty about that too if you don’t!
Whilst it would be easy to dismiss this advice, remember that actually this is all part of meeting the Teachers’ Standards and being professional as, if you do not look after yourself, you will not be able to fulfil all the expectations that are required of you as a beginning teacher!