This is a blog for all teachers who have completed their first ever term in teaching. This is all about consolidation in order to create a blueprint for the term ahead …
What would you say to a teacher who has just completed their first term in teaching?
Teaching is a wonderful career, but have no doubt, if you are a newbie teacher, you will probably now be feeling a mixture of exhaustion as well as the ‘I’ve survived!’ sensation. In this blog, I will offer a small range of ideas for consolidation and provide you with a simple blueprint (action plan) for the Spring Term ahead.
Pride. When your colleagues and/or family say you have done really well to survive your first term, accept the accolade. In your first term, never mind your first year in teaching, this is the most critical period in your induction year for surviving in the classroom. You will of course have had many periods of despair, as well as a few moments of elation, but take a step back and give yourself the self-regard you deserve. Have no qualm about it, teaching is difficult! Take pride in what you have achieved.
A change is a good as a rest. Over the past decade (or two), I’ve always found teaching to be quite a bizarre job. One moment it’s full on, and then in the next moment, you are at home in need of several days to unwind and recuperate! Before you know it, you are heading back to work again and the cycle starts once more. Therefore, it’s important that you establish a work-life routine as quickly as possible. Choose a day to work late at school, or at home; an evening to switch off at home or with friends/colleagues away from typical spaces. Perhaps plan a weekend away each month and have something to look forward to. No matter what, it is vital that you relax and do all the things that keep your mind (and body) a million miles away from school, and any work-related activities. It is ‘easier-said-than-done’, but your wellbeing is equally as important as surviving your first year in teaching.
There will be time for reflection, but only after you have achieved the above. You need to take pride in your work and develop the capacity to reflect on what works and what doesn’t. This can only be achieved if you are rested and in a good, fit mental state. Take a step back from the classroom and celebrate all that you have achieved. There will be times when you fell stressed, tired and vulnerable; there will also be times when you feel elated, privileged and you may need to pinch yourself to find that you actually work in your own classroom, in a position charged with the challenge of changing the lives of hundreds and hundreds of students. It’s a very special responsibility to have, so relish it.
Of course, following your momentary bout of reflection on the first term and your survival, there will be many lessons that you know ‘could have been better’. After you have taken the time of to relax, now is the time to look back and reflect on the term as a whole. In the second part of this blog, I offer the reader a simple action plan outside of the statutory induction process.
For those of you lucky enough to be reading blogs and engaging online with Twitter, there is a plethora of support online, far more than what I had available in the 90s when I first qualified. Of course, schools and local authorities did their best with the expertise that existed within, long before any statutory induction programme was put in place for newly qualified teachers. But back then, it truly was all about surviving and in a few minor cases, you were often left alone to your own devices. I am not denying the fact, that some newly qualified teachers will be working in very challenging schools in a multitude of circumstances. For example, without the support you need, or in schools without structure and poor leadership.
Today, that there is a wide variety of networks available for every teacher, no matter what your experience, so make sure that you engage in more detail during your second term and seek the explicit guidance you need in order to consolidate your teaching repertoire. If all else fails, contact a colleague you know elsewhere, your union, or someone willing to provide a ‘listening ear’ via Twitter and Facebook. There is always someone who can and will help, so do not feel you are alone.
For the term ahead, consider the following questions to improve your teaching and consolidate your own action plan:
- What resources could you create; adapt and refine?
- Is it time for a classroom spring-clean? What displays could you update?
- Are there any colleagues you would like to observe? Outside of your department and induction process …
- How could you improve your marking? Use the opportunity to plan for smarter marking and reduce time spent giving meaningless feedback.
- What strategies do you need to tweak to ensure you manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment? Are your expectations high? Do you follow the school’s behaviour policy and if so, do you offer a range of strategies, using praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly? And if so, how do you know? Every term, I am always refining my behavior management strategies. Do not think for a moment that you get it right and then you can work with this technique for the rest of the year, you can’t! Students are complicated individuals and teaching evolves. Therefore, so should you and how you teach.
You know your students better than me. You know what works in your school. What I say here may not work for you in your context. I was not the same teacher I was 20 years ago, not even last year. I don’t expect to be the same teacher next term, so please keep this in mind and remain open to change. Consolidate your blueprint and ensure you show pride in what you do; rest and stay reflective.
Good luck in the term ahead …
Photo Credit: Reid.