The start of term is what I think sometimes a slightly more productive time to reflect upon the year before; your brain is functioning again after a few weeks of ‘being you,’ your thoughts are fresh and you can think about your practice in context to your new students. We all start with clean slates, new stationery, positive mindsets about the new year and with the best of intentions, our path may become a little off-road by half term when our eyelids simply refuse to play ball. These are what I believe to be the core elements of my teaching that I use to re-centre my approach:
- Be yourself. This can be a ‘teacher-version’ of yourself and not necessarily your ‘true-self,’ but spend time figuring our the teacher identity that you are, or want to be. Don’t try to emulate others- they are different, not better or worse. Studying teacher identity during my professional studies has been one of the most useful and grounding elements of my teaching practice. Read Effective Teaching: Evidence and Practice by Daniel Muijs and David Reynolds (Chapter 6: Teacher Beliefs, Values and Knowledge) for a further insight into the concept of self.
- Every day is a new day. For staff, for students, for parents, for support staff, for you. Avoid carrying grudges or becoming your own worst critic if something didn’t quite go the way that you wanted it to. Failure is inevitable if you want to learn effectively and your own criticism will become your biggest obstacle if you let it. Self-validation is an incredibly powerful tool if you can master it.
- Plan smart. Create resources that will be used more than once! This has been particularly challenging given the current climate of English but I have tried to focus on making resources that will weather the storm and that will benefit more than one class. Throwaway lessons are exactly that and often, you are creating the PowerPoint as your own safety blanket as opposed to aid the students. Last year for the first time, I saved my adapted planning on a weekly basis in an additional file to well-established schemes. With my subject in particular, you often find yourself using different texts or approaches so that they ‘get it.’ These classes will appear again- next time, you will be ready!
- Share. I would not be the teacher that I am without the amazing teams that I have been a part of and the fantastic amount of people on Twitter that I have given, received or collaborated with in order to make this job a little bit better. Aside from the practical benefits, sharing is good for the soul! Not only are you feeding the kindness, you are helping someone to spend an extra hour with their child at the weekend, make that visit to see friends, whatever it may be. That makes you absolutely priceless in my eyes.
- Know when to stop. In case you haven’t quite fathomed out the mystery of the to-do list, it is NEVER empty. Ever. It is not your productivity that needs to improve, simply your resilience to the list. Do what you can and be kind to yourself- if you’re tired, most of what you will produce will be a bag of pants anyway (you already know that). The sooner you approach the list monster with a new sense of empowerment, the happier you will be.
Have a fantastic, productive, fulfilling year!