Preparing for the new academic year
And so, the new academic year is nearly here. Although to many it seems the end last year was only a couple of days ago, the beginning of 2019/20 is quickly gaining ground. As strange as it seems to think we will be teaching in 2020 (surely, we should have flying cars by now?), the beginning of the new academic year needn’t be daunting. In fact, often, the start of the academic year should be a time to of excitement.
With that in mind, below are some ideas to help ease you back into the best job in the world:
- Looking back
Nothing will better prepare you for the coming year than looking back and evaluating the previous one. This doesn’t mean looking through reems of data or students' folders – this can be as simple as asking yourself what was successful about 2018/19? What did you do that made you happy? What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work? What can you do to develop it, or should you repeat it at all? A dose of ‘blackbox thinking’ could be just what you need to set you up for a great year. This will also help you to plan your next steps…
As part of looking back, why not set goals for what you want to achieve during the next academic year? This could be anything from managing your time more effectively, creating relationships with those more challenging classes/students or even trying to have more impact across the board. This does not necessarily have to be confined to your professional life – what goals can you set yourself in your personal life over the same time period? As difficult as it may seem at times, there will often be crossovers in the two areas of your life and if you can make them work together, you have a better chance of achieving both, instead of one at the expense of the other. On a basic level, even buying a planner or creating checklists at this stage can be enormously helpful.
- Professional Development
As Dylan Wiliam once said: ‘All teachers need to improve their practice—not because they are not good enough, but because they can be better.’ So, how can you become ‘better’ in 2019/20? Having evaluated and started planning personal and professional goals for 2019/20, why not begin to think about what external support or guidance you might need? What would you like to know more about? What interests you in education? What might you even need to brush up on? With a range of free webinars from the likes of the Education and Training Foundation, as well as a plethora of training providers, courses and qualifications including NPQML/SL to an M.Ed., there are a host of options. Practitioners might point to the cost, time or logistics of attending the above, but this need not be a barrier. Make professional links with local, regional or national schools and communicate via email to share resources. If you find this difficult, Twitter (or EduTwitter) is a great place to make contacts, share resources and ideas and network to develop.
- It’s good to talk
The key to development and happiness in teaching is communication. Whether this is with students, colleagues, senior leaders or parents. Why not start doing this early? If you are feeling anxious or worried about the upcoming academic year ahead, why not contact a colleague and see if they can offer support or you can offer it in return? Meeting for a coffee or arranging to meet early in college on the first day back can be hugely beneficial. As simple as it might seem, this can come as a huge relief and settle some of those first day nerves (when many of us wonder if we have forgotten how to teach!).
If this isn’t possible, again, Twitter can be a saviour in this situation. Put yourself out there as, more than likely, thousands of other teachers will feel exactly the same as you do and there will more than likely be someone on hand to offer advice, resources or solutions to any issues you’re facing.
Lastly, it can seem as though the holidays are running away from you at this point. As difficult as it might be, it is always best to complete any preparation for the new academic year in your second to last week off – this way, you can relax and enjoy your final week before the assault on 2019/20!
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Hartlepool College of Further Education. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher. He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.