New year, new opportunities: 6 ideas for teachers

view of desk from above with coffee in yellow cup and saucer, notebook and pens

Just like that, the festive season is gone and here we are facing into a new term. The thing that keeps you going in the moonlit hours of December is the prospect of a restful Christmas break, too much food and too little work. When  January hits it can be a shock to the system for many of us. Do not despair, I am here to guide you to a brighter future and a positive start to the new term. Here are 6 ideas for teachers to try in January and beyond in 2020. 

Get organised

There are probably jobs, tasks or paper work sitting on your desk that you simply haven’t had time to address (or have simply been putting off). Now is the time to get organised. No distractions, no more excuses, just get it done. It will genuinely feel like a load off your shoulders. These jobs can mount up in the second part of the Autumn term and with everything else going on often get passed to one side. Now is the time to get stuff sorted so that you can head into the new term with a clear head and a clear in-tray.

Swallow the Frog

I first heard this term on a middle leaders course and to be honest, I don’t understand the relevance of the amphibian in the phrase. However, the basic idea here is to just get on and do that thing you’ve been putting off the most. We all have that tricky email to send, that favour to ask or that data to analyse that we have been consciously avoiding and pretending doesn’t exist. Well, it does. So get on with it. Get it done first thing in the morning so you aren’t sat worrying about it for days and days. It often isn’t as bad as you think and will genuinely lift your mood when you know you’ve ticked that nasty bit off your to do list. 

Plan rewards

Building in fun events to look forward to in the dark winter months really will help lift your mood and if you plan them in advance then you have something to look forward to and get excited about. This could be a nice country walk, dinner at a friend’s house or a stroll along the beach. Without setting these plans in stone you can find yourself simply coasting through January. Instead, make plans and find ways to brighten it up.

Try something new in the classroom

I always feel that a new year is a great time to launch new initiatives or concepts that perhaps you didn’t have time to do in September with everything else going on. For example, this year I am measuring my children at the start of each term. Not a huge educational shift in style or direction but a shared experience that I have always wanted to do with my class but never got round to it. Find something you’ve simply not got round to doing and crack on with it. 

I have recently completed a LEA run session about what to expect during an inspection under the new Ofsted framework – something worth doing if you have a chance – and one key area stuck out for me. Whilst my current school is achieving very good results, has invested hugely in new books of all varieties and involves the children in the selection and reading of these stories, as a Reading Lead I need to know how my kids feel about reading in general. So in the early part of next year I am going to be looking at ways to measure and track pupil enjoyment of texts, popular authors and what they really know about books beyond just comprehension of a story. 

Prioritise your own CPD

Often the first few months of the year are a little slow on the CPD front. However, do try and get some form of professional development booked in if you can. Although many schools are no longer finding the budget or time to send staff on courses in term time have a look to see what’s around you at weekends. Whilst some may not wish to spend their Saturday ‘working’ many of these events are truly brilliant and schools will often cover costs as they tend to charge less than midweek events. 

Personally, I am looking forward to attending the launch of the second instalment of the Brightstorm series – Darkwhispers – by Vashti Hardy. This event will launch the book, include a Q&A with the author and will allow me to discuss with colleagues how they are going to use this book in their settings. Fantastic CPD for me as I teach the first Brightstorm book this coming term and it is always great to pick the brains of the author. So take a look around, see what is out there for you, you never know, you may even enjoy it.

Connect with colleagues

My final top tip is to get out there and mix with as many teachers and educators as possible. Social media is key to developing a supportive, reflective and forward thinking profession in my opinion. No longer is pedagogical conversation limited to your staffroom. You can engage with literally tens of thousands of colleagues at the click of a button and Twitter and teaglo are at the forefront of that. I intend to continue offering help and seeking it on Twitter and linking up with colleagues in a more structured and supported manner on teaglo and I urge you all to do the same.

So that’s it folks, some simple steps that will give your winter months that little bit of lift. I hope this has helped. Keep working, keep smiling and keep enjoying your classes day in day out.

About the author

Ben KingBen King is a Year 5 teacher and Reading lead in a West Sussex Primary. He currently co-hosts the HWRK Podcast and is a regular contributor to the HWRK magazine.

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