Back to School – An article for Teachers both experienced and new.

In my local Supermarket, the back to School signs have been present since the end of June. For my colleagues in other parts of the world, we actually finish towards the latter period of July. As we approach the end of August, I felt it was time to start considering the return to work. 
Returning to school can be an exciting opportunity to prepare all the wonderful lessons that you have learnt, dreamt or read about. The time a holiday provides allows your body and mind to refresh but as the term begins and the stress and frustrations build, I would like to take this time to discuss preparing yourself for the new term. In many ways, I’m also preparing myself for a return to work.

I’m sure that many of us have seen this joke,

However, although funny my aim is to try and provide simple guidelines for success. Many articles have been written regarding teacher welfare and controlling the stress and pressure that can accumulate during the term. 

One of the most important images you will ever need is below. It was created by @musicmind.  One of the most inspirational speakers that I have had the pleasure to meet. It is essential that we all try and support our well-being and this simple set of strategies will hopefully provide an aide-memoire when you need it most.

Being alone is not really an option when you work in education but isolating your feelings can lead to a road full of worry and stress.

To work in school is about being a part of a team. The link below leads to an article describing Richard Brandon’s Top 10 quotes on collaboration.

My favourite quote is,

As individuals we have a role in achieving the very best for our pupils but this will only have an impact if we work as a group, a team thus making improvement for the whole school and not simply the pupils in our class. Every member of staff, from admin to teaching, have a role to play in improving the attainment of every pupil.

Many years ago, I wrote a book that remains unpublished under my bed. The aim of the book was to provide new members of staff the confidence to enjoy the beginning of their career. It is called, ‘Smile’. I have changed the content slightly but here is a simple breakdown of the book. 

S – Smile 

The most important advice I can give to all new teachers on the first day of term is to smile. You  might be nervous, anxious or even eager to begin the first task however without breaking down the invisible barriers that exist within all pupils including those that come across full of bravado, no real achievement is possible. Setting the rules from day 1 should be a collaborative effort with pupils. Yet prior to the setting of any class instructions,  a smile can create a sense of trust and confidence without a single word having been spoken. The chapter on ‘S’ was and is built on the premise of developing an effective working relationship within the Classroom and within the school.

A smile warms the heart, provides confidence and sets the context for a positive and constructive working relationship. 

M – Mistakes

They do happen. Many pupils need to learn the value of resilience in order to cope with mistakes. To make a mistake should be a natural part of a positive learning environment.  As teachers we will try ideas to support our pupils that might not always work therefore being prepared to say stop or being adaptable are characteristics that we require. In the same way, we need to teach children, it is fine to make a mistake but the most important thing is what we can learn from our mistakes. This is assessment for learning at its most powerful.

As we stumble along the path, we simply build stepping stones that will lead to success. To quote a very old saying, ‘

‘If at first we don’t succeed, try and try again.’

Resilience is an important value that is easily forgotten however to truly succeed then every pupil must feel confident that to make a mistake is normal but how we learn from the mistake is key to success. @RiscaCCS_Head provides many inspirational thoughts on his twitter feed but the image below is extremely powerful and makes my point perfectly.

I – Imagination

I’m beginning to deviate from the book as I believe that imagination is a crucial ingredient to any successful classroom.  Imagination inspires the brain and encourages children to think, consider and arrive at a wonderful story, a creative design, a solution to a maths problem. 

A teacher inspires pupils and we use our imagination to create fantastic lessons. One of the masters of pure imagination was Roald Dahl,

Providing magic in the classroom always inspires imagination. 

Through imagination and inspiration, new belief to achieve can be created. If we do not encourage imagination and belief, from where will our future entrepreneurs appear?

Imagination is a key characteristic in solving the most difficult problem. The key to thinking outside the box.

L – Learn/listen

As a new teacher you will be bombarded with information but very often to listen is to learn. The same is also true for your pupils but to listen does not mean not to contribute and to learn will never stop. All teachers are consistently learning and adapting their skills and I believe that the best teachers never stop learning. 

This happens to be one of my favourite quotes and it provides excellent advice to all new teachers,

This is true whether you are a teacher in a staffroom, in a classroom, or on a conference. It encourages the value of respect. To listen is not a standalone statement it is part of the learning journey and the key to positive outcomes is to become involved,

E – Energy/ Enthusiasm

As we begin a term full of energy,  the trick is to maintain that level throughout the term. To be a part of the life of any child is a privilege and that should never be forgotten as we try and maintain the enthusiasm within ourselves that engenders enthusiasm within our pupils. This is not easy. Whenever I’m asked in an interview about what I would like to improve about myself, it is always work/life balance i.e. time management. This is relevant in the sense that if you manage your time properly and allow activities within your week to revitalise your energy the please make every effort to achieve this. A career in education can be extremely rewarding but it is important on that journey that you look after your well-being.

The above image is exactly what we are trying to avoid but it can be very difficult. 

It is important to remember when an enthusiastic teacher full of energy facilitates learning, the results for the pupil can be remarkable that is why your well-being is crucial to the success of your pupils.
SMILE! A simple guide to what will hopefully be a successful future. Good luck on your journey and remember,

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