Back to school tips for teachers

It’s been five weeks and four days since the school holidays began, and approximately five weeks and three days since the Back to School adverts began. But thankfully, thoughts of actually going back have only just started to arise. I went and got myself another job in a school. I’m doing more or less the same thing as last year, but this time it’s in a school with twice as many students as my last one. I’m trying not to think about that detail too much.

I’ve only come across a couple of ‘Get ready for the new school year’ articles so far. One of them was aimed at parents and talked about the importance of regulating toilet trips in the days leading up to school (something that seems a little weird to me) and one aimed at teachers. I think the one aimed at parents may actually have been more useful. The article on the Guardian gave suggestions to prepare for the year which skirted around the message that teachers with very little free time on their hands might want to just give their time management a bit more thought! (Yes, the writer was slated in the comments for this.)

It’s been a year since I began a teaching position at a school, and based on what I’ve learned in the last 12 months, thought I’d put a few preparation tips down myself:

1) Use the last few days of the holidays to take really good care of your body and brain: the right amount of sleep, really good, nutritious meals that you might not have the energy to cook in a week’s time, and some nice long walks to keep your mind clear.

2) Do a big food shop, now! If you’re super organised, you could even start cooking some meals and freezing them for when the long days kick in. But if like me, that’s unlikely, at least get a good amount of ingredients and plan some meals so it’s one less thing to think about.

3) Watch something inspirational. I didn’t catch any of the Educating Yorkshire documentary last year, but I saw an advert for the new series today, and the reminder that we go to work for the students, and that there are them to think about beyond the simple ‘going back to work’ made me begin to dread Monday morning a little less. I’ve got Dead Poets Society lined up for Sunday evening.

apple24) Decide now how you’re going to organise your year. Last year I juggled my laptop calendar with the one on my phone and a good old physical diary. It got messy. Things got forgotten about. And however appealing post-it notes always look, they lose their stickiness, fall on the floor, and tasks get lost.

5) Have some treats lined up. At the point at which I was really struggling to find motivation last year, I booked a holiday. It was only for three days over the Christmas break, but suddenly having something to look forward to made the difference I needed to keep going. I’m going to make sure every week this term comes with a treat, in case the new start is particularly challenging. Simple things like booking into a pilates class I look forward to or stopping to buy a bar of chocolate on a Friday night are all going on the to-do list. Cocktails are good, too.

6) Look after your mental health. A ridiculously high number of teachers suffer from depression or another mental disorder during their time at work, and it’s not always the sort of thing you can power through until your boss tells you to go home. Look out for the first signs that your mind isn’t at its healthiest, and pay attention to it straight away.

7) Prepare to be firm. This is more of a tip for myself than a general one, but I think it could apply to most people. Prepare to really make people listen to you this term, and don’t let meetings go cancelled for weeks on end. Stand up for yourself and make sure the things you want done, get done.

8) Get off your phone. I dread to think how much of these holidays I’ve spent looking at Facebook and Twitter. For these last few days I plan to use my phone a minimal amount and actually get outside. The weather’s going to get cold pretty soon and there’s plenty of beaches still to walk along.

Add your own tips in the comments, and have a great 2014 autumn term!

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