Surviving the first term without a few tears, tantrums and a mid-term meltdown is a huge feat, particularly when this first term back to college is like no other. With waking up in the dark and (more often than not) heading home in the dark, it feels like a long stretch to the end of term. However, with a few tips and tricks from some veteran teachers, Christmas can really feel just around the corner.
The Big One
Ask for help! Nothing makes the term fly by than asking for advice rather than tearing your hair out because you have no idea how to handle something. Chances are your mentor, Head of Department, Head of Faculty, or anyone who’s worked out how to make a booklet using the photocopier would have been there, done that and got the parent e-mail. We’re all busy but asking for help rather than catastrophising will make everyone’s job a little easier.
Find your work spouse
…and treat them right! Having a best friend by your side does wonders for your morale. Lecturing is a curious vocation where no one really gets the full extent of it unless you’re in it. Bring in little pick me ups for your work partner to brighten their day and lift their spirits – especially if you know they’ve got a challenging one ahead. They’ll return the favour and soon enough you won’t know what you’d do without them.
Keep the to-do list to a minimum
Don’t fill that bad boy up to the point where you can’t even see the margin anymore. It’s stressful and will make you feel like a terrible lecturer if you don’t get everything done in the one hour of precious PPA you have that week. You are one person and there are only so many hours in the day. Try using the Eisenhower Method to help prioritise your to-dos. And if you’re feeling really rubbish, make a Ta-Dah List – notice how much you’ve achieved and allow yourself to feel good about that, even if one of them is Managed to go to the bathroom at breaktime.
Don’t take anything personally
Students can be mean, okay? They’re great and we love to teach them, but sometimes they’re just mean. They’re either hormonal, tired or hangry (or a terrifying combination of all three) and they’re just not going to like you on that particular Thursday afternoon. Remember: it’s not you, it’s them.
Make nice plans
Schedule in some fun activities, whether they’re mid-week or weekend. Spend time with family and friends and remind them of your face (you may have fallen down the rabbit-hole and not seen them since August). A quick gin at the pub before heading home to simultaneously eat dinner and mark work whilst watching re-runs of Friends can be a lifesaver. Book something exciting for October half term (COVID-friendly) – something to look forward to makes those first eight weeks go a lot quicker.
And don’t forget to make time for yourself. Even if it’s shutting your classroom door for five minutes in the changeover.
Be the friend of your future self
Start your Christmas shopping early. This way you don’t end up leaving it to the last minute and finding yourself engaged in a stressful supermarket sweep deciding whether Auntie Joan gets the Quality Street or the jumbo pack of After Eights.
Lay out your outfit the night before. Shaves valuable seconds off your morning that could be used to avoid scalding your tongue on that first tea of the day.
Plan out the year ahead of you. Make a note of key dates, assessments, report deadlines and parents’ evenings etc. Mapping out the academic year can visually break it down into less daunting chunks and you avoid being clothes-lined by a commitment you weren’t expecting.
Make a countdown calendar. This can go either way, but there’s something really satisfying about taking a marker pen and crossing off each day.
Buy really nice stationery that makes you happy
Find me a lecturer that doesn’t love a new notepad.
And last but by no means least…
(or a Horlicks, whatever floats your boat at the end of a long day).
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.