Getting ready for the new term | An essential guide

Well, that holiday went by quickly! One of the huge benefits of teaching is that you’re never too far away from a well-earned break. However, we have to get there first, and what better way to start the new term as we mean to go on? With passion in our bones and a fire in our hearts. I’ve cobbled together what I think is an essentially guide for hitting the ground running.

I made a similar one not so long ago for trainee teachers, which you can find here, but I’ve learned a thing or two since then as I’ve now been teaching full-time for a couple years. All of this is separated into three sections, detailing what you need for the new term, what you should do before going back, and why being prepared is an essential part of teaching.

Tools of the trade

I’d love to go into work each day and know that my glue sticks will always be where I left them, but that’s not always the case. I’m not saying that you should advertise yourself as a stationery cabinet, because that’s what a department budget is for, but it doesn’t hurt to stock up.

Personally, I’ll be raiding our department resources cupboard on Day One and bringing some essentials to my classroom. This is what you’ll need:

  • Pens. ‘Sir, I forgot my pen’. Yes, you should expect this statement-come-request on the first day back.
  • Lined paper: Somebody is going to forget their book, and it’ll be up to you to ensure that they can continue learning.
  • Glue sticks. In an ideal world, we’d have one glue stick between two; but I think it goes without saying that glue is about as valuable as gold dust in a school. Gather as many as you can and hope for the best.
  • A folder + plastic wallets. This is an unusual one, and it might not work for you, but I’d be hopeless without it. I keep my week’s resources in a folder, with each lesson separated into a different plastic wallet. I use folder dividers to make it clear which lesson belongs to which day. It’s an invaluable way to keep my resources organised and in one place and ensures that I’ll never forget where I put that one print-out for source analysis.
  • Electronics. My school prides itself as an iPad school for Years 7-9, and every teacher has one at their disposal too. So what good would it be if we didn’t have our own iPads charged and ready to use? Get that charged the night before and in your bag before you forget.
  • A large rucksack. Yes, specifically, a large rucksack. I sometimes have to leave my classroom so that someone else can teach in there, and you can bet that I’ll want to take my lunch, water, iPad and snacks with me. You never know when hunger will strike, especially while planning during my PPA!
  • Staples + a stapler. Look, I don’t use this everyday either, but you just know that when you need one, it’ll either be empty or non-existent.
  • Paper clips. I combine these with my folder management system to keep individual resources separated from each other while in storage. Otherwise, I could find my images of Elizabeth I might be muddled up with the information sheets that I printed out – and that’s going to confuse me and slow down the learning.

Actions speak louder than words

There are a few things that you’ll need to get done prior to coming back to work, and how much of it is done at home depends on how much free time you’ll have before the students return. We’re opting for a staggered return, so the additional PPA will be invaluable for getting my lesson planned.

However, if you’re returning when the kids are, here’s what you should get done:

  • Plan those lessons. If not for the whole week, at least for the first day. The last thing you want is to be rushing the night before or – even worse – the day you start teaching. Get a good desk setup at home to make it easier to plan than ever before.
  • Get your classroom sorted. I left mine fairly tidy before the end of term, but there are still bits that I want to sort. During term, I just simply won’t have the time to do this, which is why I’ll be getting it done before my students show up. It’s something small but incredibly important, I think, and that’s because it fits with my mantra of a tidy desk making for a tidy mind. If the students have unnecessary distractions all around them, how can you expect them to focus?
  • Put that map up. Okay, so this is a bit of a personal one. I have a map of the world that was on the wall from Day One in September. It was really heavy, and I didn’t use enough blue tac, so obviously it fell down. Just like getting the classroom sorted, putting it back onto the wall is another activity that I’ve been putting off because, let’s be frank, there were more important things going on at work. Use this as an opportunity to sort out the small stuff…like the map.
  • Update those seating plans! This one’s also optional, and it depends on how recently you’ve changed up who’s sitting where, and why. I like to mix mine around at least once a term, based on where I think students might learn best. Changing where they sit at the start of the term is also a good way of setting expectations from the start, and ensuring that you maintain a smooth start to the new term, instead of shocking them with a seating plan change later on.

Why preparation is key to good teaching

I once had a conversation with a student who had forgotten their planner, and therefore couldn’t hand in their homework. They said that it wasn’t their fault. I asked whose fault it was, and they couldn’t tell me, which led to a speech about personal responsibility.

Something that I dwelled on as an example was the idea that I could forget to plan my lessons. I asked the student whose fault that would be, and they rightly said mine, which really helped to hit home the lesson about always remembering what homework is due and when – and why it’s important to frequently check their planner.

The point here is that we’re teaching students to be organised learners. How can we do that if we’re not also organised and ready for the day ahead? Plus, what better way to manage stress levels in teaching than by being as prepared as possible before coming back to work for another busy term?

How do you manage workload? What are you going to do to hit the ground running? Let me know in the comments below.

While you’re here, you might also like…

Book club: Chris Runeckles on practice in the classroom

Top time-saving tips in teaching

Reflections on a year in teaching

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