Have you reflected on your successes and thought about the term ahead?
Congratulations new teachers! You’ve made it through your first half term with six weeks firmly under your belt.
No doubt it has been a rollercoaster adventure of highs and lows, up and downs, ebbs and flows. I’ll put my money on the fact that you are also now feeling a tiredness you’ve not felt before and the arrival of half term couldn’t have been more warmly welcomed!
Whilst you enjoy some well-earned relaxation, set aside some time to make a plan for the second half of term as it is waiting for you just around the corner.
Here are my 5 tips for reflecting and looking forward before the next half term.
1. Create a virtual trophy cabinet
Completing your first half term is a big achievement. The longest half term of the academic year is out of the way and you have established yourself with pupils, colleagues and parents. Although still the team rookie, you are now doing the job for which you have studied and trained. This is a good point to create your own virtual trophy cabinet in tribute to your successes over the last six weeks.
It’s likely your trophies will vary in size and shininess – from impact on pupil outcomes to meeting a tricky deadline to getting your head around the politics of your staffroom – but take time to reflect on the moments that have given you the greatest sense of satisfaction.
Whether you actually write them down or just run them through in your mind, keep that image of your virtual trophy cabinet as a place you can return to mark your triumphs and use to spur you on as you progress further through the year.
2. Visualise the end of term
Like all school breaks, half term will seem like a distant memory by break time on Monday morning. The second half of the Autumn Term is likely to be shorter and therefore even more fast paced than the first. Dedicate some time to visualising the end of the Autumn Term and the start of the Christmas holidays. Imagine you are standing in your classroom on the last morning of term; what would you see? What would you hear? What would you feel? What would your pupils and colleagues be saying about your practice? When you have answered these questions, work your way back through the actions you need to undertake in order to achieve the outcomes you visualised. Use this to help you achieve clarity on your vision for the new half term and identify priorities for getting there.
3. Make your diary your best friend
Assessment and report deadlines, Christmas events, more observations and further monitoring will combine to mean that your upcoming schedule is likely to be pretty relentless. Number each week in your diary and ensure you enter details of all events and deadlines. This will allow you to be prepared for pinch points and aim for as consistent a workload as possible; identify your quieter weeks and use them to help you get ahead. The trick to making this work is regularly checking back in with your diary, making updates and reviewing your commitments.
4. Make quality questioning your priority
I am yet to meet a teacher who could not develop their questioning technique. Effective questioning is the number one tool you have at your disposal to move learning on in a personalised and responsive way. Building a questioning strategy into your lesson planning allows you to systematically ensure you stay on track with your line of enquiry and incorporate a range of open, lower and higher order questions.
Question planning will not only provide you with clarity on where you want to take the lesson but it will help you become better at questioning responsively as you interact with pupils during the course of a lesson.
Periodically audit your questioning and use your findings to identify target areas for development; you’ll see immediate impact if you make space for quality questioning in your planning routine.
5. Plan a mid-November treat
As soon as the clocks go back, the nights draw in and the mornings are pitch black there will be no escaping the fact you will need to look for ways to keep your energy up. Book a treat to look forward to in mid-November; whether it’s a big night out, a massage or a visiting family, lock it into your diary and start a countdown so you have it there keeping you going as move through the weeks.