Back To School After Holidays: Teacher Survival Guide by @richardjarogers

I happened to be very ill for almost the entirety of the three weeks that I was off school for Christmas. Bad luck I guess, but I still managed to squeeze in a 3-day trip to Jeju Island, South Korea (highly recommended). I didn’t get everything done on my list that I wanted too, but I did manage to get a few items checked off (including writing a reference for a former colleague – so pleased I could that done).

Let’s go through a few checklist items for primary and secondary teachers: top priorities upon returning to school.

Secondary School Teachers

  • Mock exams: Make sure papers are printed and ready and are easy to read and that the rules, length of the paper and space for candidate details are clearly displayed on the front page
  • Have you already prepared the mark schemes for your mocks? Get those done ASAP because both you and your students will need those model answers for assessment and reflection.
  • Termly plan: for your own personal use. Do you know where you are up to and where you are going? Are you ahead or behind schedule with your teaching? Have you planned in adjustments?
  • Personal targets: Is there anything you could have done better last term? For me, my marking of student notebooks was regular but I know it could have been better. My target for this term is to get a good weekly marking schedule in place so that I can provide my students with even more regular feedback to inspire and motivate them (and to plan ahead when I know that school events are going to affect my personal marking schedule).
  • Coursework: Do you know all of the deadlines? When will it be sent off for moderation/marking? What do you need to do to make the process as helpful to the assessor as possible? Are your students clear about what’s expected?
  • Revision: Term 2 will move like a steam train. Before you know it, your kids will be sitting their final exams. Have you worked revision time into your schedule? Maybe some after-school sessions will work for you?
  • Take a look at the primary school teacher list below: some things apply to us too.

Primary School Teachers

I might need your comments and help with this one, as I’m not a primary specialist. However, after some careful research, the consensus seems to be that you should be focused on the following:

Start easy. Don’t overwhelm your kids. Many of them will have been waking up late in their pyjamas over Christmas. Starting the day with a printable worksheet reviewing 10 maths problems they’ve covered since September won’t go down too well. Try the following open-ended tasks to ease them in:

  • Blank paper to colour and draw on
  • Morning boxes to explore (unifix cubes, pattern blocks, play dough, lego, etc.)
  • Journaling
  • Drawing or writing about Winter break
  • Puzzles
  • “Make a list” (For example: Make a list of as many Christmas words as you can think of. Draw or write the words on your paper.)
  • Create a “Welcome Back” greeting card for a friend

I have to give credit to Christina Decarbo for these excellent ideas here. This article of hers is filled with great after-Christmas tips for primary teachers. It’s well worth a visit!

alphabetic mat

Get organised. Plan your outfit –  for me that involves a lot of washing and ironing so all the better to start now! Pack your teacher bag. Clean out any remnants of holiday treats. You may find that the bottom of your teacher bag is pretty much coated in glitter from sweet cards from students and candy that escaped from cookies on the last day before break. It’s time to avoid an ant infestation! Plan and pack your meals and snacks for the first week and be sure to go to bed early.

Expect the worst. Some kids will be late. Some will not turn up for a few days. Some will forget things – they’re getting back into the swing of things too. Be prepared, Have extra pens and materials on hand for kids who forget stuff. Maybe plan for kids who forget their packed lunch.

Once again – I can’t take credit for these last two ideas. This article at the Happy Teacher Happy Kids blog is filled with great advice for surviving the first few weeks back after Winter.


An article by Richard James Rogers and the full version of the article can be found here.

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

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About Richard Rogers 49 Articles
Richard James Rogers received both his bachelor's degree and his PGCE from Bangor University (Wales, UK). This was an excellent foundation for the steep learning curve that would follow as he pursued his career as a teacher of Science and Mathematics at UK state schools, and afterwards at elite international schools in Asia. His 11 years of full time teaching experience have seen him instruct IGCSE German, KS3 and 4 Science and Mathematics and three subjects at 'advanced level': Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. He also went on to lead a team of students to win the Thailand Tournament of Minds Championship in 2012 and has been an active educational blogger, columnist and online pedagogical content editor since 2010. His debut book: 'The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know', was rated 9.5 out of 10 in a recent UKEdChat book review, and offers an overview of what, in his experience and research, works best when it comes to engaging your learners and being happy in your job as a high school teacher.

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