And there goes another year. Where does the time go? New Years bring new hope, new beginnings, new intentions, but when you are a teacher, you quickly realise that the same stuff happens over and over again, with the same daily challenges presenting themselves to you.
But, with a new year approaching, this is the perfect opportunity to refresh your mind, your practice and your outlook on this blessed profession that we all enjoy. Here are 12 resolution ideas for teachers that can easily be implemented to ensure you get the best out of the new year, which hopefully can be maintained (with a little bit of self-discipline) for the next 12 months. They are presented in no particular order, apart from number 1:
1. Sort out your work / life balance:
There, we’ve said it. Teaching is not a 9-3 job, and we all know the pressures of marking, assessments, planning and meetings, but as much as we take our roles and responsibilities seriously, we’re not going to be any good to anyone when we finally reach the burn-out stage. Remember your family and friends, who will observe your frantic way of life in complete bemusement. It’s not easy to switch off (our minds are always thinking about how we can improve an element of our teaching), but make sure you find time to stop and give time to those in our lives who are actually really important.
2. Get out more:
Unless we are on playground duty, or rushing from our cars to various front doors, teachers can easily get entrenched indoors, without really appreciating what it’s like outside those windows (unless sleet is pounding against the window as you try to teach about the theory of relativity!). Even in the grimiest of cities, we are not actually too far away from connecting with nature. This threads in with Number 1 above, but take regular (relaxing) walks with the family, walk along the beach, pop to the local park, (re) explore the countryside that is so vast and available nearby. Just promise to get some fresh air in your lungs, and try to appreciate the bigger picture around us, of which many of us forget about.
3. Get Lost (in a hobby):
Hobbies are a great way of distracting yourself from your job, with some hobbies really helping the mind to switch-off those all encompassing thoughts that we all have when teaching. If you are stuck with ideas, ask those around you what hobbies they have (if any), to see if you can get inspiration (or invitations) from them. Some people we asked shared their hobbies, including: swimming, yoga, photography, dance classes, going to the pub, running a football team, colouring-in complicated patterns, bird-watching – and then it got weird, so we stopped asking ;0) But you get the idea. Distract yourself by doing something else.
4. Read – More
This is a great way to clear your mind, but also an opportunity to gain new ideas to improve your teaching practice. There are a vast array of books out there to support the teaching and learning process (click here to explore our book reviews), and these are great to pop into and take an element to help you develop. However, the greatest way for reading is to allow a book to clear your mind, and transport you to another world. For this resolution tip, we actually are encouraging you to read a work of fiction, or a non-fiction non-educational book, of which you will be able to lose yourself into another world. You could even do this within your classroom, and discuss themes from the book to help inspire your pupils to read.
5. Reflect / Write a Journal
We’ve all been there. Fully waking up at 2 in the morning worrying about an incident that happened in school the previous day, or becoming anxious about the looming observation, and worrying about whether you have planned every second the forthcoming lesson adequately. Our minds are great at doing that, and releasing those thoughts onto paper, or in an electronic (private) journal are a great way of minimising those thoughts, and helping you organise the anxieties. If you do consider the online/app options, make sure you are happy with the privacy settings, and if you are writing them on paper, be aware of who could ‘come across’ these notes whether at home or in school. There are some fantastic journaling apps for Smart Phones or Tablets (click here to see more), allowing you to keep your thoughts private.
6. Start a blog
If you want to share the magic of your classroom practice to the world, start a blog (easily with WordPress or Blogger), but be aware of the public implications of this, and write accordingly. Classroom blogs are a fantastic way of sharing learning adventures with parents and families, and ensure you have permission agreements, but don’t let it become a chore. It doesn’t have to be an essay each day – a couple of lines will suffice, especially when accompanied with an image or two.
7. Share your successes
We’re mainly a modest bunch, us teachers, and would rather celebrate the successes of our pupils than the magical stuff that we perform in the classroom. But the success of our pupils is built on your guidance, support and teaching, so share strategies that work for you. OK, they won’t work for everyone – because of your uniqueness – but when there is so much negativity within the education world, it’s always good to encourage colleagues to share their successes, so you can share yours. Suddenly, it all becomes very positive.
8. Learn a new skill
This could be linked into starting a new hobby, but why not look at improving skills that can help impact on your teaching. There are a plethora of video resources to help you start and improve skills – you could work at improving your IT skills – you could work towards a Masters, or Doctorate – you could work at being able to teach netball, football, or cricket skills – you could go to an art class – learn/develop a foreign language, or anything. If you can then bring those skills to an after school club to enrich the school experience even further, then it’s a win-win situation.
9. Don’t get sucked into SLT Drivel
We really don’t need to sound negative here, but the SLT in your school are working at ensuring the whole school develops to the best of the potential of everyone within the community, and sometimes they are guilty of coming up with ideas which are – frankly – ridiculous. It is easy to get sucked into these brainwaves, or fads, but rather than openly welcome this new intervention by jumping in with both feet, allow yourself to take a step back and explore the proposition with that professional and reflective insight that you have. What we are saying here is don’t volunteer yourself too freely to be a guinea pig for a project, unless you clearly understand the philosophies, agendas and points. You cannot head up each new project or fad, so choose carefully the projects and ideas which you can commit time, and yourself, fully to.
10. Go home on time, at least once a week, taking nothing with you – NOTHING!
This is about you. A resolution to allow you to keep your sanity in check. You probably worked through break times. You will have eaten your lunch ‘on the go’, and you still have a million and one things to do. Staying for a long time after school will not help destroy that long ‘to-do’ list, but probably you will get distracted speaking to colleagues (which is good), or getting drawn into matters which you don’t necessarily need to. Run for the hills, and get home to allow for a reality check.
11. Engage in productive and enjoyable professional discussions – beyond shouting at the photocopier.
You don’t need to be tied down to the tedious professional development sessions that are often forced upon you by your school managers. Well, you may have to attend, but there are more choices available to you, and you can actually take charge of your own professional development. Clearly, we would advocate joining Twitter Chats, such as #UKEdChat, and there are many more, but other opportunities include attending Educational Conferences, attending TeachMeets, organising your own TeachMeet event. More and more teachers are organising their own professional development, not being tied to the whole-school sessions which fail to personalise their objectives to your needs.
12. Appreciate the pupils and their work, as a human being.
Make a promise to yourself – don’t assess, mark, or feedback in jargon, just enjoy what they have done. Welcome them as individuals – we all come with our strengths and weaknesses.