The Start of a New Term

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This post feature on The Guardian Teacher Network here. 

I am writing this on the eve of a new school term, having lazed around until the last minute, oozing every second out of my well-earned holiday! My appetite will get a shock tomorrow, because I barely get a chance to sit down and grab a bite to eat; visiting friends and family will become near-impossible, unless I organise a strategic action plan before half-term, with a timeline and venue for all concerned and give them all two or three weeks notice. If only I could be so organised in my personal life when I get back into the classroom when I can hardly find time to buy a book of stamps!

Tomorrow, if I’m lucky, there may be a couple of “thank-you” cards left in my staff tray and the cleaner may have even picked up my coffee mug I discarded to avoid any biology-fungus-project from breeding.

I will face a barrage of emails containing dates, reminding us all of the last reminder we were given; messages containing vital information will be lost between the “where’s my stapler?” subject-title and jokes or pointless “reply-to-all” sentences that really could have been had with one person on the corridor…

Some of us may be faced with a first-day-back INSET, thanking the CPD leader for effective planning and that extra day breathing space to skive, plan, reflect; or on the other hand, you may face an onslaught of pointless meetings, full of information you could read on an A4 sheet of paper!

Whatever the case, I ask you this: at the start of a new term, are you the type of person to jump out of bed, or press snooze on the alarm clock? I tend to be the former and not intentionally; no matter what strategy I try before school recommences, I don’t have a peaceful night’s sleep.

I’m also traditionalist at best, but I’ve never been one to set myself any new-term resolutions. In fact, I cannot remember anything that I’ve ever wanted to achieve at the start of January. Maybe that’s because for most teachers, New Year begins in September and it’s at this point in the year that I set my own personal and professional goals.

Returning from an extended festive holiday with loved ones, friends (and colleagues), it’s that time again to take out my shoes from the wardrobe and consider giving them a sparkling polish for the start of the term.

The beginning to the Spring Term is a peculiar one. Winter is at it’s deepest and Seasonal-Affected-Disorder-Syndrome (SADA) is pushing you to the brink of depair; the remnants of influenza ensure a re-visit to the chemist; the increasing anticipation of snow add to the myriad of mental-thoughts, as you browse through the pages of your teacher-planner and set the alarm to get out of bed, ten minutes earlier to defrost the windscreen.

Spare a sympathetic thought for a few colleagues who may be excited, or even nervous, starting off in a new school, whilst many others consider putting the long Autumn term behind, finally accepting a change of whole-school tempo as the exam temperature builds…

Deadlines loom closer, the promise of marking increases and the tightly-packed revision timetable is already in draft format, which includes every Saturday leading up to Easter! That pay-cheque may be weeks further away than usual, so in many ways, you either resign yourself to long days at work or cosy nights in at home in front of the tv.

So, consider setting yourself some targets for the term. Examples may include:

  1. Choose a couple of days in the week to get up earlier and leave work sooner!
  2. Wear a new outfit. As my wife says, “dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got!” But, you may have heard, the newly appointed Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw is demanding that inspectors assess the dress code of teachers in the new framework! Have a look at this comical version by @RobAnthony01.

  3. Implement a new “Questioning strategy” in the classroom and stick it out for a term.

  4. Join an online teaching forum such as Twitter and follow @GuardianTeach.

  5. Watch this inspiring educational content, published by the RSA.

Some of my Twitter Followers responded with subsequent comments and ideas:

@10kmk42 – “It’s time to try something new; turn over a new leaf…”

@MintSpies – “I’m going to move all the desks round to shake things up. It’ll mostly be revision for exams, so I want to signal a change in emphasis…”

@mgcps_b75 – “A continuation of a school year, not the start of something new. Continue building and enjoying…”

@DepJo – “Fresh start for everyone. All misdemeanors are forgiven. Not just for pupils though. Parents & colleagues as well!”

@Sharland – “Set very clear goals, as Christmas may have been a ‘goal’ for many children.”

@JohnSayers – “What should we focus on moving into 2012? How has learning changed? Focus more on technology or the professional?”

@jogyouon – “Be organised. No point starting a new term on the back foot!”

Regardless of your approach, the Spring term is a sign of growth; as the climate eventually warms, daffodil buds will begin to bloom in the ever-preceeding month of March, signalling better times ahead. Yes, January has arrived and you’ll get through it, like you always have…

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