My 6 Top ways to have a Fabulous First Term Back!
You’re nearing the end of the summer hols and a creeping dread starts to set in. All the things that you intended to achieve over the summer (back in July when it felt as though the summer would last forever!) are still on that wretched “To Do” list. You never sorted out your wardrobes, painted the house, planned the lessons or wrote the novel. It’s every teacher’s “Late August Feeling”. Because when you’re a teacher, your life is always heading towards the summer. Even when you love your job. It’s just something about the linear way a school is set up to run towards a finishing line every year: Work, Revise, Exams and……RELAX!
Hardly surprising then, that it can feel a bit miserable when the celebration ends and you get plonked back at the starting line again… But there are certain things you can do to leap back into the new academic year with a sense of excitement, optimism and confidence. Here are my top 6!
Pimp your displays!
Have you checked out all the stunning classroom display ideas by brilliant teachers on my Pinterest board? You’ll find loads of inspiration for making your classroom pop! It might feel counter-intuitive to use up a day of your holiday by going into school, but getting back into your classroom for a couple of hours before term starts can be therapeutic. You can stick your favourite music on and revel in renovating the interior design of your classroom. Create some eye-catching bulletin boards and get it feeling just right. Remember, this is a space where you’re going to spend A LOT of time and you deserve to have somewhere you’ll enjoy teaching in. How about an interactive 3D display where learners take and return subject specific words to make use of in their writing? Or an eye-catching “Fact of the Week” board to inspire intrigue and wonder?
Try using balloons, clothespegs, boxes, buckets, plastic wallets or glitter to make your spectacles interactive, multi-sensory and 3-dimensional.
Secret Tip: You can ask local shops for any spare display materials they might have! In the past I’ve collected all sorts – simply by asking – including life-size cardboard characters from the cinema and happy, smiling portraits from a beauty shop!
I’ve got your number!
Prepare a sheet you can circulate around pupils in your class/es which requires them to fill in the contact details (email or phone number) of their parents. Yes, of course you already have access to this info on the school system, but the act of asking for it from your learners is important. Tell them that you’re collecting this information because you really like to contact parents when their child does something especially wonderful. Explain that in your classroom it is effort and perseverance that gets noticed and that you will make sure that those qualities can be celebrated at home as well as at school.
Of course, the pupils will also realise that these contact details can be used to relay less positive news too, but you don’t need to point that out. The simple act of filling in their parents’ details will make sure the term starts with them being hyper-aware of how they can gain recognition and appreciation at school and within their families.
Eliminate Everyday Effort
Get creative and have fun making some resources which you’ll be able to use everyday. This will save you countless hours in the long run. Perhaps you could set up a “Mission Impossible” corner with relevant challenges for learners to always access when they need an extension task. Or how about making some plenary dice or a plenary grid featuring questions that can be used to review learning at the end of any lesson? (Eg. How does this topic link to another? What are 3 key points from the lesson? What could you have done differently? Etc) Boarding and Landing cards (explained at length in Talk-Less Teaching) are also a great way to routinely check pupils’ understanding on the way into your lesson and then help them to condense and review new learning at the end. Have a laugh sourcing a few engaging visual conundrums, mysteries or intriguing images to show at the start of lessons and get learners engaged from the moment they walk in. You could even create a system to attend to the needs of absentees, whereby resources from each lesson will be placed into relevant folders that are affixed to the wall in a prominent place.
Keep the bar high
Prepare some classroom processes that will keep learners’ expectations of themselves sky-high. Since the first piece of work pupils produce for you at the start of September is probably one of the most conscientious and careful pieces of the entire year, it can be useful to “frame” this masterpiece at the front of their exercise books and have them view it as the new bar, below which nothing can now slip. The only way from here is UP! You might also like to prepare a “Best Effort Book”. This is where, for each assignment, you select the work of one student who has demonstrated the greatest effort, and “publish it”. In this way, a resource is created that any learner can flick through for inspiration. Or perhaps you want to set up a routine whereby learners are required to predict their mark or grade (or even their teacher’s summative comment!) and record it before they attempt an assignment! Psychologically this works well for keeping learners in top gear…
Initiate a new, helpful idea in your staffroom. Try a “Thank You Board” for celebrating acts of collegial support or a “Share Board” to obtain suggested solutions for classroom problems. How about starting a secret pass-it-forward “Random Acts of Kindness” project where each participant secretly nominates a subsequent colleague to leave edible treats in staff trays? You could even set up a “Bright Ideas Board”, where colleagues can share magical moments from their lessons and pin up resources they’d like to pass on.
Set some resolutions that make you feel refreshed, positive and determined. A good place to start might be to resolve to spend more time with the enthusiastic, positive colleagues and less time with the ones who start the term in moaning misery. Set some time parameters to protect your well-being: will you make more of an effort to get to the staffroom at lunchtime? Set a marking schedule for certain days of the week? Get all admin done before you go home? How about resolving to greet every learner with a smile? Or pick one pupil each day who you’ll get to know better? Will you volunteer to do at least one thing that scares you each month, like lead an assembly or present your ideas to governors?
Finally, I have to admit that one of the things that gets me excited about starting the new school year is a good old shopping trip to buy a gorgeous new pencil case, diary and a few frivolous, unnecessary, unicorn-shaped stationery items. (And maybe a new bag to put them in?…) But that’s just me… ?
Now it’s over to you! How do you get yourself geared up for the new term? Please share your own tips in the comments below!
Have a fab start to the new school year!