5 tips to make January Inset a cracker not a turkey

Nobody looks forward to the January Inset day – least of all the person who gets stuck planning it, says Helen Mars
8th December 2020, 12:00pm
Helen Mars

Share

5 tips to make January Inset a cracker not a turkey

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/5-tips-make-january-inset-cracker-not-turkey
How To Plan Your January School Inset Day For When Teachers Return From Their Christmas Holiday

Nothing says "end-of-term festivities" like preparing for the dreaded nadir of the teaching year: January Inset on the first day back. 

This year, things are little more complicated, too. The government is set to announce an additional Inset day that can be taken before Christmas, allowing teachers to have a "proper break". 

While a pre-Christmas Inset might be full of good cheer, you can bet that any training that happens at the start of 2021 is bound to be met with less enthusiasm. 

If you have been left holding the metaphorical parcel when the Christmas music stopped, and are now planning a professional development day for January, here are five top tips to make sure your Inset day is more of a cracker than a turkey.

Planning your January Inset day

1. Actually have something to say 

Just because it's on the calendar, it doesn't mean that it's your duty to fill the hours of your colleagues for the sake of it. Keep your input short and snappy, and give them the time off they need to remember how the photocopier works and plan lessons that aren't based around tenuous links between the curriculum and Disney films.

2. Plan a very slow and gentle start 

Remind staff of your name, especially this year, since the chances are good that at least some people will have been isolating on and off for months now. You may also like to recap some of the basic rules of your fine establishment: turn up, wear some uniform, try to absorb a tiny nugget of information each day that did not come from Instagram. That sort of thing. Imagine bottom set Year 8 on a Monday morning; that's the level of engagement you're probably dealing with here, but with more swearing under their breath, and significantly more references to The Thick of It.

3. Lower your expectations for any group discussion task or activity 

Of course, it sounded fun when you were planning it on a wet Wednesday in November, but that's because you were comparing it with its immediate predecessor: a wet Tuesday in November. On the first day back in January, you are following two weeks of glorious nothingness, lie-ins and the tacit agreement that prosecco for breakfast is a Saturnalian celebration rather than a sinister problem. It's a tough gig. Get through the important stuff and get out. No one wants a card sort now. There is no blue sky thinking here.

4. Brace yourself for cynicism and apathy

This is not the day for launching initiatives with cutesy names, acrostics, special colours of pen or resurrecting Bloom's taxonomy under a thinly disguised veneer. These things can wait until September, when people have new pencil cases and NQT levels of enthusiasm. January is about shoring up the walls of the trenches and holding on grimly until the spring.

5. Don't skimp on refreshments

You've got through the basics, the training. Now to the main part of the day: food time. Your audience have lurched from one meal to another for a fortnight, and offering them a cup of gravy coffee and a desiccated custard cream may drive them to the job sites before you can say self-care. 

Instead, offer them a Danish pastry or a bacon sandwich, and refer it to the bursar as a "retention allowance". An army marches on its stomach, and a staffroom mutinies on theirs. It might be socially distanced this year, but the scrum for caffeine will be no less fierce. 

Think of your Covid-era, post-Yuletide staff as you would a relatively unfriendly wild animal. Walk and talk near them as little and as slowly as possible, use food and bright colours to grab their attention, and release them back into the wilds of their classrooms as soon as possible. 

With that, good luck. Hopefully your Inset day will be as painless as it can be. Oh, and do have the "presents" of mind to avoid all Christmas-related puns. (Sorry.)

Helen Mars is an English teacher in Yorkshire

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters