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Primary Education News
News Back to school: the prep task teachers shouldn't forget
Before school starts at 100mph and exam discussions take over, make sure you take time to reflect on what worked well last year
Bag packed: check. New shirts bought (and ironed, no one likes a "straight out of the packet" fold that's clearly visible): check. New planner neatly written-in with name, details, and a beautifully colour-coded timetable in place: check. The start of a new term is full of routine.
But there's something that's often missing from teachers' pre-term to-do lists – and it's a task we urged of students in July.
In the last week of term, I delivered a stressed-out lecture to a year 10 student who is in danger of underachieving. I told him to: "use the following six weeks to mature and decide what you're going to make of yourself in year 11."
My words were wasted, Owen was: a) far too demob happy for his own good and b) needing a more realistic timeframe of six years rather than six paltry weeks to turn into the student I had in mind. Despite this, the point I was making still stands: it is sensible to use time away from school to reflect on where you are, what you want and where you're going.
This applies to teachers as well as students. We've had six weeks off to relax, visit exotic climes (I write this from Devon), even rebuild family relationships we've neglected. There's also a need to reflect on what we did last year as professionals. Where did you excel? When did it feel really good to be a teacher and what led you to that feeling? We often challenge our students to reflect – but have you asked yourself what you did well last year? Make a list if necessary.
And then the tougher bit. Where is there room for improvement? Where can you go next as a teacher/year leader/head teacher? Questioning what others might say you could do better is a good way to start, but also ask yourself what you know you could have done better? For me, I got behind in marking and record keeping. I was at a new school, other challenges got in the way and the basics sometimes slipped. So this term I will make a conscious effort to stay on top of the workload.
And this is my point. Before school starts at 100mph and exam result discussions take over, take time to think about your performance last year. You're only a better professional in the next year of your career if you learn from the previous experiences. Whenever I talk to colleagues who are apprehensive about starting again and joining a new school, I tell them it's the best thing for their career. My logic is that a new school means you have to reinvent yourself and establish a reputation afresh. It enables you to keep the things you do well – and improve your weaker points.
Taking this mindset and applying it to the new school year could isn't a bad idea – regardless of whether your changing job role or school.