Mrs Humanities

teacher . blogger . friend


1 Comment

The Back to School Essentials

The other day my husband and I were joking about the ‘back to school’ shop for essentials. He reeled off a list of items students are required to have – pens, pencils, ruler, pencil case, bag – just to check I didn’t need any. We chuckled but then I thought about the things that make up my back to school essentials as a teacher.

Firstly, I replenish my self-care kit – tissues, wet wipes, sanitiser, plasters, deodorant, antiseptic cream, period pants, spare tights and pain relief. I keep a few sweets, thank you cards and birthday cards in there as well.

Next, I try to plan things to do over the weekends of September and October. I know that if I let it, work eats into the weekend and sometimes devours it entirely, especially in the first term, so having a number of activities planned helps to separate work and life and provides time to recoup.

Then there’s the organisation of the teacher planner. Last year I opted to change from a physical planner to a digital one. It is nothing fancy, I’ve set it up in Excel with the 3 tabs – calendar, notes and to-do.

The calendar covers the academic year, identifies the weekly timetable, has a column for each class along with columns for school events and work deadlines. I fill the events and whole school deadlines in on a termly basis so I can easily see what is coming up, whilst adding in my personal deadlines weekly.

In use it looks something like this.

Personally, I have found the digital planner more effective as I’ve been able to see easily what came before and where I’m going with each class all in one place. I pop the title/theme of the lessons for the term and shift as required. For instance, if I see that students need a little longer on specific content, I can simply shift my lessons, much easier than filling in my paper planner weekly.

At the start of the school year, I arrange the timetable by colour filling cells and then copy and paste across the rest of the calendar. Easy. If there is a timetable change, it is easy to amend. No crossing out required.

Download the template below.

Finally, my last back to school essential is determining / reminding myself of my boundaries. Teaching is hard, it is mentally and physically draining. You’re responsible for so much. You care about what you do, the students in your classroom, their progress and so, the temptation to put every part of you into it is too easy and tempting. But teaching is a job. There needs to be clear boundaries.

#wellbeingsuperheros

I’m not always good at maintaining those boundaries but setting them out at the start of the academic year helps me to place a focus on my health and wellbeing so I can hopefully be at my best in the classroom.

The last couple of years, I really struggled to mentally distinguish between what is my responsibility and that of the students, particularly thanks to CAGs and TAGs and that had a knock on impact on my mental health. This year I’ll be reiterating the mantra ‘self-care is not selfish’. I know I’m going to need to remind myself of this regularly throughout the academic year and more importantly, put it into practice.

What are your back to school essentials? Would love to hear what they are.

Best wishes for the new academic year.


6 Comments

A-Z of Back to School

I thought I’d write something for fun to make the back to school experience a little easier for everyone.

Anxieties – The back to school anxieties get the best of us. No matter how long you’ve been in teaching, there are very few teachers I know that don’t get them. I like to think it’s because we care so much about our role, but really it’s because we know the workload is about to go from zero to light-speed in no time at all. That’s enough to induce anxiety is anyone.

Bragging
From the first day of the summer holidays it’s all about the bragging that you’re back to school in ‘insert number of days left’ days. We say it like we are gutted the holiday will be coming to an end but really it’s just that we want to tell everyone and anyone how many days of summer we still have off. Then when you’re back at school it’s all about what you did with your time off, just remember not everyone went on three holidays!

Catching up
The first week of the school year doesn’t really feel like you’re back in work. It’s just another week of catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while but this time it’s your colleagues (or school family) rather than the friends or real family you haven’t seen for months during the school year.

Drains
You’ve been in school for five minutes and already someone is draining the energy out of you with their pessimism for the year ahead. Acknowledge them, make a witty comment about how everything will fine and walk away. You don’t need the drains in your life.

Expectations
The first few lessons are all about setting your expectations with your students i.e. if they want to be your favourite class, your favourite biscuits are …, your favourite chocolate is…. and you enjoy drinking a glass of…

Freak outs
As you sit in your first CPD session, you start thinking about all the things you could be doing instead of sitting here. Then you start to make a mental list. The list is getting bigger and bigger. You decide to write down all the things you need to do instead of listening. The list keeps growing, your on to page two now. You freak out for a moment and then relax. You’re stuck here for now, make the most of sitting down and doing nothing.

Goals
Set yourself a few small, tangible goals for the first few weeks; you know goals like go to toilet during the school day, eat lunch at lunch time and drink a HOT cup of tea/coffee.

Half term
By the end of day one, you’re already counting down the weeks, days and hours to the next half term.

INSET days
You roll up to school, expecting to have some time to get yourself organised. But every year it turns out that that first day of professional development is jam packed and you won’t have a moment to breath let alone get started on your classroom, planner or lessons.

Joking around
The days when the kids aren’t in are days for the adults to act like the students. We have this innate ability to revert back to being teenagers, joking and larking around like we’ve no cares. Enjoy those moments!

Know the important people
If you’re new to a school, get to know the important people – the caretakers, cleaners, office staff, canteen staff. They know the ins and outs of the school and they’ll look after you if you look after them. A school isn’t just the teachers and students.

Lessons
At some point in the first week you’ll actually have to teach a lesson after all the getting to know you activities and setting out of your expectations. Make it easy though, maybe some colouring in or a wordsearch, you know to give yourself a chance to get back into the routine of early mornings.

Memes
Show your classes that you’re fun and down with the kids by welcoming them with some kind of ‘back to school’ meme on the board.


Names
Whilst it might seem like a big effort, at some point you really should learn the names of the kids you’re teaching. Why wait until parents evening? Start early and you’ll remember them all by Christmas.

Official Christmas Party
Within the first few weeks of the school term, someone will mention the ‘Official Christmas Party’ and how you need to get your name on the list and pay your deposit quickly if you want to attend whilst you’re more concerned with trying to get back into the routine of school.

Planner
Whether your school provide one or you’ve purchased it yourself, the school planner is a priceless piece of equipment. It becomes a record of the year – all the lessons you’ve taught, homework you’ve collected, detentions you’ve given. Look back at in August with fondness before you burn it. Plus the pleasure that comes with colour coding your timetable is unbeatable.

Questionning your life decisions
By week 3, that to-do list is starting to take up several pages of your planner and you’re wondering why you didn’t do some of this in term 6? Why you didn’t do some of this over the holidays? Why you even became a teacher, why oh why?

Research advocates
You’re all for improving your teaching and student learning but if one more person mentions the research reading they’ve been doing this summer and tells you that you really shouldn’t do x, y and z, you might just punch them.

Stationery
It’s stationery not stationary. You’ve seen so many tweets, texts and Facebook messages about the lovely stationery your teacher friends have bought but when will they spell it correctly?

Timetable changes
You’ve written your timetable into your lovely new planner, you’ve completed every week until the end of the school year. It’s looking lovely and you’re super pleased. Then in morning briefing you hear the words “there will be timetable changes from Monday, please check your pigeon holes for your new timetable” and your heart sinks. You pray your timetable remains the same….

Uniform
Buying new school uniform isn’t just for the students. Depending on what you’ve done over the holidays you’ve either lost weight or put it on, inevitably your favourite workout won’t fit and you’re going to have to buy some new clothes for work – the teacher uniform.

Vivacious in September, disheveled by July
You start the year fresh, enthusiastic and feeling somewhat alive, by the time the summer holidays arrive you’re bedraggled, exhausted and in need of the break. Why not document your year through selfies and watch your body change.

Wellbeing
You make yourself a promise, this year you will look after your wellbeing. You’re are going to put yourself first so you can be the best possible teacher, parents, friend, person etc. for everyone around you. But by the end of the first day of teaching, you’ve gotten distracted by the to-do list, you’ve forgotten to eat lunch, you’ve been busting for the loo since break and you’ve still not drank that cup of tea you made when you got into work. So much for wellbeing!

Xerography (or photocopying) guru
Learn to use the photocopier with expertise! Everyone is grateful when you can show them how to convert an A4 worksheet into A3 or how to print double sided as a booklet. Simple skills that mean a lot to the technophobes of the school.

You’ve got this!
The school year is a marathon, with a few hurdles thrown in. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also really awesome, fulfilling and at times good fun. Teaching is a fantastic profession to be a part of and despite how hard it can be, it really is fantastic to be a part of it. No matter how difficult the school year gets, there are always people within your school and outside of it willing to help and support you. Just reach out.

Zombies cannot teach.
Look after yourself.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It’s just a little bit of fun for the new school year.

Best wishes,

Banish the back-to-school blues by joining #Teacher5adayBuddyBox. Sign up here https://teacher5adaybuddybox.com/